The Antwerp Diamonds shot to the ranking lead after a sparkling win at their home venue for the third round of the Longines Global Champions League showjumping teams event at the weekend.
U25 team rider, and home hero Jos Verlooy (BEL) said “we came with the big guns – our aim was to win and we did, so I couldn’t be happier!”
The Antwerp Diamonds have taken the top spot on the team ranking leaderboard, coming away from round three on 75 points, just two points ahead of Monaco Aces and Valkenswaard United, which are tied on 73 points apiece. The battle for the lead has moved up a gear, and with the teams looking ahead to Shanghai for the fourth round of action, rivalries and strategy are beginning to show.
Donning their team jackets for the first time in the Championship, which sported personalised names, logos and team sponsors, the chilly weather in Belgium posed no problem for the 12 teams, all hot to compete for the first European leg of the League. Watched on by fans and VIPs, with many more tuning in via the GCL TV live streaming, the scene was set in the intimate sand arena, nestled next to the River Scheldt.
The first round course was tough, and set at the full 1.55m with plenty of turns to test the top riders and horses in the world. Just three teams jumped a combined clear in the first round; Rome Gladiators’ Laura Kraut (USA) with Cedric and Marlon Módolo Zanotelli (BRA) with Rock’N Roll Semilly; Monaco Aces’ Schuyler Riley (USA) with Dobra de Porceyo and Daniel Bluman (COL) with Conconcreto Apardi; and Antwerp Diamonds’ Audrey Coulter (USA) with Domino and Jos Verlooy with Caracas. Pedro Veniss (BRA) with Quabri de l’Isle and Athina Onassis de Miranda with AD Cinsey also jumped clear, but picked up an unlucky time fault, leaving them on a score of 1, ahead of the second round.
The next round had all the excitement of a jump-off with pace and time counting to the final result. The three teams on clear were fighting amongst themselves, vying for position but also conscious they needed clears to stay high on the leaderboard. The Vienna Eagles had a good round, with Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) and Citizenguard Cadjanine Z lifting them up the order, but his combined four faults with team mate Lauren Hough (USA) and grey gelding Cornet 39 meant they would finish in sixth.
The Monaco Aces were looking sure of the win until Daniel Bluman (COL) crashed through the last fence, much to the groans of the crowd. John Whitaker (GBR) of Valkenswaard United showcased his anchor man role, jumping clear again with his top mare Ornellaia, while speedy team mate Bertram Allen (IRL) and his experienced grey mare Molly Malone gave it their all to push the team back up to second place.
Rome Gladiators focused on strategy, with their tactics to go slow and clear. All went well until Marlon Módolo Zanotelli clipped the back of the rainbow oxer – agonisingly, their slow time dropped them back down the field, just shy of the podium and in fourth overall.
The League now heads to Shanghai for the fourth round of competition in China next weekend.