Italian star Lorenzo de Luca turns up the heat at LGCT Miami Beach
The second day of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Miami Beach was another display of world class sport and top action as speedy Italian Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and stallion Halifax van het Kluizebos stormed to the win in a high-octane CSI5* class. The temperature rose at the breath-taking destination, as the world’s best competed for the lion’s share of the €62,000 prize purse, in the perfect prelude to Saturday’s Global Champions League final and Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Miami Beach.
The course set by Uliano Vezzani was relentless, with the 1.45/1.50m fences coming up fast in the tight sand arena. Fans packed the grandstand and lined the length of the course to watch the majestic horses leap around the arena, gasping when poles rolled and cheering when riders went clear. VIPs, including top tennis player Martina Navratilova, watched on from the luxurious grandstand, decorated by partner Plant The Future, and enjoyed picture perfect views with the sparkling Atlantic ocean the turquoise backdrop to top class show jumping.
Flying Dutchman Harrie Smolders (NED) was the first to go in the 54 strong class, and the first to ride clear with the top rider making short work of the course with relatively new horse Zinius. Young gun Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) and Ustina Sitte quickly turned up the heat, with the popular Belgian knocking almost a second off of Harrie’s time and earning himself a place in the jump off. The crowd had plenty to cheer about as Jack Hardin Towell (USA) with New York and Jessica Springsteen (USA) with Davendy S jumped clear to keep the American dream alive, with Jessica shooting to the top of the time sheets after her speedy round.
Leopold van Asten (NED) with VDL Groep Miss Untouchable showed flawless sporting action as they shaved a further second off of Nicola’s time, with the pair drawing admiring gasps from the crowd as the dark bay mare leapt her heart out for the Dutch rider, rocketing them up the timings. Speedy Italian Lorenzo de Luca and Halifax van het Kluizebos look to be on seriously strong form at the moment, as the pair jumped another stunning clear with the young ten year old stallion tucking up his knees and clearing the fences by miles.
David Will (GER) and his feisty chestnut mare Mic Mac du Tillard looked strong throughout, until their hopes were dashed at the last after rolling the pole of the final fence. Similarly, shock exits from Bertram Allen (IRL) with Quiet Easy, Lauren Hough (USA) with Quantas, McLain Ward (USA) with HH Callas and Jane Richard Philips (SUI) with Foica van den Bisschop proved the course was a true test for the world’s best. Kent Farrington’s (USA) hopes of an American win crumbled after his exuberant grey gelding Dublin clipped the pole jumping towards the expectant crowd and collecting four faults.
A total of 19 riders went through to the jump off, including Simon Delestre (FRA), Kevin Staut (FRA), Pieter Devos (BEL), Geir Gulliksen (NOR), Yuri Mansur Guerios (BRA), Steve Guerdat (SUI), Christian Kukuk (GER), Maikel van der Vleuten (NED), Alberto Zorzi (ITA), Max Kühner (AUT), Gonzalo Añón Suarez (ESP), Christian Ahlmann (GER) and Gregory Wathelet (BEL).
As the shadows lengthened the riders returned to the ring to play out the final part of today’s €62,000 class. Harrie Smolders (NED) was the first to go, but clipped a pole, knocking them out of the order. Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) and Ustina Sitte were the first to jump double clear, setting the time to beat at 35.03s. Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) put in another blistering round with Halifax van het Kluizebos, the stallion looking fresh as he galloped towards the fences, stopping the clock at an incredible 32.64s, almost three seconds faster than the young Belgian talent.
Unusual refusals from Kevin Staut (FRA), Simon Delestre (FRA) and Leopold van Asten (NED) drew gasps from the crowd and dropped them out of the top spots, while Jack Hardin Towell (USA) and New York took the angle a little tight to the brightly coloured blue and green oxer, also collecting four faults. The oxer also caused troubles for Pieter Devos (BEL) with his eye-catching horse Apart, as the pair came in a little close, pushing through the poles and collecting faults despite their speedy time.
Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Davendy S put in a phenomenal round, with the crowd once again on the edge of their seats as the young American galloped around the track. Davendy S jumped with speed and agility, with Jessica taking an unbelievable turn back to the Longines vertical. Despite their efforts, they stopped the clock at 34.13s and putting the pair into second. The final rider to go was top German Christian Ahlmann (GER) and his beautiful blue-eyed stallion Caribis Z who put in a valiant effort, with the grey covering the distances with his stride and leaping the fences to aim for the win. But they fell just short of Lorenzo’s time, finishing just a second behind in 33.83s.
So it was another win for the popular Italian rider, who has quickly become a fan-favourite on Tour with his phenomenal skill, genuine horses and constant smile. Tomorrow will see the final day of action at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Miami Beach, with the Global Champions League final taking place at 13:15 local time. The top 25 will qualify for the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Miami Beach kicking off at 16.45 ET. Tune in via GCL TV and GCT TV to watch all the action live.