Photos: Stefano Grasso / GCL
Paris, the “City of Lights”, and it was the Antwerp Diamonds
team of Audrey Coulter and Harrie Smolders who shone
brightest of all in the 10th round of the Global Champions
League. The final competition for the three day festival of
show jumping in the French capital was met with cloudier
skies, however no amount of rain could dampen the enthusiasm
of the phenomenal crowd who cheered the riders on throughout
the 200,000 euro prize class.
It was a battle of the best, with the overall GCL Ranking
leaderboard changing dramatically at every round. Rocketing
to the top after yet another podium, Valkenswaard United
currently sit in the lead with a tally of 239 points.
Breathing down their necks are former leaders Monaco Aces,
an intense three points behind, and Antwerp Diamonds have
closed the gap to the top two, currently sitting in third
with 226 points overall.
Among guests watching the thrilling GCL team competition
this afternoon were Antwerp Diamonds’ star Audrey Coulter’s
parents Jim and Penny and her siblings. The delighted family
members saw Audrey clinch victory, with a stunning clear
round under intense pressure, in the high stakes
competition. International guests watch the contest from the
beautiful VIP Lounge where business leaders, politicians and
sports stars enjoyed the ringside action.
Looking to benefit from the enthusiastic French crowd were
the home team the Paris Jets, this weekend fielding Olympic
medallist Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and young Belgian talent
Olivier Philippaerts. Fresh from his LGCT Grand Prix win the
day before, Rolf posted a beautiful clear with his
expressive grey stallion Clarimo ASK around the up-to-height
1.55m, first round course. The home team delivered, picking
up just 4 penalties to assure their place in round two.
With the standard of horse and rider so high amongst the 12
teams, any more than one pole down between riders eliminated
some of the teams, with the likes of Vienna Eagles and
Cascais Charms unable to qualify for the next phase of the
competition. There was a nervous moment for Cannes Stars
after Bosty lost balance pushing for the final fence,
however he was able to stick like glue to Sunshine du Phare,
putting himself and teammate Marco Kutscher safely into the
Crucially amongst the eight teams heading into the second
round were the top two contendors in the overall League
rankings, Monaco Aces and Valkenswaard United. Both took
centre stage for round two on 4 penalties each, vying for
position at the exhilarating event. Three teams went through
on a score of zero faults - the Rome Gladiators who this
weekend fielded Marlon Zanotelli and the speedy Laura
Renwick, the Antwerp Diamonds and the Cannes Stars.
Of the teams on zero scores, Harrie Smolders and Capital
Colnardo for the Antwerp Diamonds posted another clear to
move them into pole position with the final riders still to
come. They had little breathing space however with the
Cannes Stars just 1 penalty behind and another three teams
on four faults overall. It was tight ahead of the last 8
riders, and the pressure mounted on those last to go.
A uncharacteristic pole for Maikel van der Vleuten and VDL
Groep Quatro dropped the League leaders, Monaco Aces to 6th.
Valkenswaard United’s John Whitaker put yet more pressure on
the following riders with a smooth clear on his talented bay
mare Ornellaia, with team mate Alberto Zorzi and Fair Light
van T Heike jumping clear in round two. Their four faults
carried through left them with a score of four overall, and
the ones to beat as the final rider s entered the ring.
Crowd favourite and home hero Roger-Yves Bost bettered that
score with just the one time fault to leave the Cannes stars
on a final score of two faults overall. A clear, or just one
time fault was needed for the win, and the tension was
electric as Audrey Coulter of the Antwerp Diamonds entered
the arena with her brilliant horse Alex. Watched on by
teammate Harrie and her family, the young American held her
nerve, riding a class round to jump clear, putting the team
on the top step and winning the Global Champions League of
The pair enjoyed their moment on the podium as the only team
to keep a clean sheet on this leg of the League, and the win
moved Antwerp Diamonds up one place to 3rd in the overall
rankings. Cannes Stars moved up to 5th whilst Valkenswaard
United's 3rd place finish in Paris moved them to the top of
the League. The blue, white and orange team are now three
points clear of Monaco Aces with five legs remaining,
including their home event in The Netherlands in August.
Next stop, and the Global Champions League heads south to
Portugal as the battle for the Championship title gallops
into its final third.
Jan Tops, Co-Founder Global Champions League: "It was
super exciting. Antwerp Diamonds are very consistent Audrey
and Harrie are a great team. Everything is very close.
Anyone can win. It will be exciting to the end until Doha
and that is what every sport wants. If you want to win you
have to put your best horses, top Grand Prix horses in and
you can see the teams’ tactics.”
Audrey Coulter, Antwerp Diamonds: “It’s been a super
fun class. Harrie and Jos have been amazing teammates. It’s
nice to have some top horses who we can put in this class
and go and win. Harrie rode one of my horses - he jumped
well yesterday, and we really wanted to pull out a win.
Harrie’s ridden Colorado a few times before, so he knows him
so I had a lot of faith in them. We started the season with
me first and Harrie second but Alex is very fast so we
decided mid-way to switch and put me second. That way I
would know what I would have to do if we needed to go for
Harrie Smolders, Antwerp Diamonds: “This class suits
us very well. I know Audrey’s horses very well, we train
well together and this plays to our strengths. Today showed
it again - Colorado is a horse of exceptional class so it
wasn’t so difficult! I haven’t had the phone call from our
teammates yet, but for sure they were watching everything."
Marco Kutscher, Cannes Stars: “First of all
congratulations to the winning team. We are both very
pleased with our second place - our tactic is quite simple,
we both have slow horses who are very careful. We’re still
waiting to win this class on one time fault!"
John Whitaker, Valkenswaard United: "We were very
good. We had an unlucky fence first round but great second
round and w e're pleased to be up there and on the podium.
We are leading [the overall rankings] and it is really good.
It is very close and we’ll keep going and try to stay in the
lead to the end. We know we have to jump clear and go fast."