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Harrie Smolders of the Netherlands won the Longines FEI World Cup™️ Jumping event at Mechelen, Belgium, with a blistering second round in the jump off that demonstrated that bravery and precision on the course can translate to a super fast time and a clear run.
Taking the tightest possible line and urging his horse Zinius over the last two jumps - a double followed by a vertical - Smolders’ final time of 38.19 became the one to beat for the jumpers who followed.
No one could match the Dutchman’s bravado, however, and in spite of clear run and a very fast time of his own, Henrik Von Eckermann of Sweden had to settle for second place with a time of 38.74 aboard Mary Lou 194.
The third spot on the Mechelen podium went to Italy’s Lorenzo De Luca, who also turned in an immaculate run in the jump off on Halifax, with a time of 39.97.
It was a packed house in Mechelen as 40 of the world’s top riders assembled for the event. It was the ninth of 13 Longines FEI World Cup™️ Jumping legs, which will culminate in the Paris finals in April 2018.
The crowd eagerly anticipated some superb rides from this collection of equestrian champions, and they were not disappointed.
Seven riders made it into the jump off after a challenging first round where the time allowed was set at 67 seconds, meaning riders would have to dig deep for places on the course where they could shave strides.
Whilst it was originally thought that a triple combination in the first round would be the undoing of many competitors, it was other elements on the course that separated the jump off finalists from the rest, including a 1.6m vertical and a tricky double where riders fought to make time.
A few riders managed to keep their horses’ hooves clear of the bars but still gained faults for time, and several retired on the course after being unable to get their horses back after tight, almost hairpin turns.
It was not the host nation Belgium’s day. In spite of having 11 riders entered in the competition, not one managed to squeak into the jump off.
Legendary four-time Olympian Ludger Beerbaum actually had a fall on the course. After knocking down a bar in the middle of the triple, his horse then caught a hoof on a double, and Beerbaum was never able to get forward on his horse from that point on, tumbling from the saddle in front of the next obstacle.
Daniel Deusser of Germany had a happy day, however, finishing fourth after making it to the jump off and executing a clear round for a time of 40.51.
Fifth place was snagged by Roger Yves Bost of France, who also stayed clear in the jump off and finished in 42.17 seconds.
Christian Ahlmann of Germany finished sixth, but whilst he had a fast time of 41.71, he accrued four faults, as did Leopold Van Asten of the Netherlands, who finished seventh overall, rounding out the jump off competitors with an identical time.
With four legs to go in the series heading towards Paris in the spring, the big question remains: will any rider be able to take two legs? So far, that accomplishment has been elusive, but the next leg in Leipzig could make it a possibility for one special jumper. Keep up with the latest action at FEI.tv.
Text by Patricia Salem
Images by Dirk Caremans