As the weather turned a bit stormy and rain began to fall, the 5* competitors at the Longines Global Champions Tour Mexico City jumped on. International course designer Uliano Vezzani (ITA) set a difficult 1.50-1.55m track that put even some of the best riders in the world to the test. Of 52 entries, only eight were clean and six double clean, with Canada’s Eric Lamaze laying down the gauntlet aboard his Olympic Bronze Medal mount Fine Lady for the win.

The sixteen efforts asked a multitude of questions including adjustability and scope. A delicate plank coming out of a forward four-stride concluded the course at far corner of the expansive grass field. Several riders had a heartbreaking four faults at that ultimate obstacle.

In the jump-off, Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) and nine-year-old Holsteiner stallion Chilli Willi set the pace going double clean in 42.34. Slicing a second off that time, Italy’s Alberto Zorzi finished double clean in 41.33 with Cornetto K. Then in galloped the fifth-ranked rider in the world, Lamaze, and his fine fourteen-year-old Hanoverian mare. Without a glitch the pair left out strides wherever they could, finishing in a blazing 38 seconds flat, over three seconds faster than Zorzi.

Next, Great Britain’s Scott Brash, ranked eighth in the world, rode the eleven-year-old Belgian mare Hello M’Lady with style and speed, slipping into quite a close second in 38.24. Two more attempted to take the lead but finished in third and fourth: Yuri Mansur of Brazil and Christian Kukuk of Germany stopped the clock in 40.02 and 40.55, respectively.

Valkenswaard United Lead the Global Champions League After Rnd 1

The first 36 competitors in the class also rode for their Global Champions League (GCL) Round One scores. Riders try to avoid faults as teams throughout the season to determine who will champion this competitive league come November. Valkenswaard United kicked off the season with a clean slate after both Alberto Zorzi (ITA) and Bertram Allen (IRL) posted clean rounds for a starting score of zero. Simon Delestre (FRA) and Jerome Guery (BEL) collectively posted only one fault for the St. Tropez Pirates. The Hamburg Diamonds, Chantilly Pegasus, and Madrid in Motion each finished with eight faults.

Round two of the Global Champions League competition will take place this Saturday. Just the first GCL week of 2017, it will certainly set the precedent for an exciting season.