In a heart-pounding display, world number one Henrik von Eckermann rode King Edward to victory for the second time this year in this series, this time at the iconic Circus Maximus. The €440,000 Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Rome saw an electrifying jump-off, leaving the sold-out crowd on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Henrik now well and truly enters the race with Harrie Smolders and Maikel van der Vleuten for the 2023 Championship title.
David Will and My Prins van Dorperheide, came incredibly close to winning their second LGCT Grand Prix of the season, finishing just 0.20 seconds behind Von Eckermann. In a remarkable turn of events, Peder Fredricson on Catch Me Not S and Andreas Schou on I Know finished joint third, clocking in with the exact same time in the jump-off. This shared podium moment highlighted the fierce competition in the 14th stage of the season. (The only Canadian in this event, Beth Underhill riding Nikka vd Bisschop, had a single rail in the first round and placed 24th of the 40 starters)
As Henrik and David have already won their golden tickets to the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Prague Playoffs, the place gets handed down to joint third-place finishers Fredricson and Schou.
With Harrie Smolders (252 points) and Miakel van der Vleuten (238 points) not scoring in Rome, the Championship race to the Finals in Riyadh will come down to the finest margins. Henrik von Eckermann has catapulted himself into a solid third place and a chance to claim the 2023 season title as he now sits on 235.5 points.
Coming back with a bang after a less-than-ideal performance in London, Henrik and his world famous King Edward were back with a vengeance. “I had two shows that were not that great with King Edward, I lost a little bit of the feeling and there were a couple of things, like I changed to a hackamore, and the feeling that something is not really like it should be… I was almost getting a bit crazy because you know how it should be but you don’t really ‘get it’…”
His contemplative expression then turned to a beam as he added, “and now it was back how it should feel… and that for me, of course winning is amazing, but that feeling when you feel that you are back and the horse is with you 100%, the team you have… that is everything, just everything.”
The historic Circus Maximus provided a breathtaking backdrop for this world-class show, with its ancient Roman ruins serving as a reminder of the rich history and traditions that make Rome such a unique host city for international sporting events.
As third-placed David Will said, “I think Rome is a very special city, all of us enjoy being here, it feels ‘special’… and then getting a podium – it’s a big plus!” This sentiment was also supported by a comment from Schou: “Every venue we come to is different, and this one with the history and such a nice atmosphere just wants you to come out and make a top result!”
Today the roster of top horses and riders were challenged by a course from none other than Uliano Vezzani which was, as Henrik Von Eckermann commented, “demanding but not crazy,” and that was certainly seen with the performances on show today, with 11 qualifying for the highly competitive jump-off.
As a man who hadn’t stopped smiling all weekend, only heightened by his podium position, a beaming Andreas Schou earned valuable Championship points at a crucial stage of the 2023 season, securing his top-ten position heading into the Finals in Riyadh. Aboard his impressive 10-year-old I Know, he commented on his Golden Ticket and his equine partner, “For sure I am very excited about that, but the first big smile is because my horse was so great today, he’s stepping up to this level and then on top of this getting the golden ticket is for sure very exciting.”
On being a dual winner of the Rome Golden Ticket to the GC Prague Playoffs, Fredericson remarked, “Yes, I certainly didn’t see that one coming… I was very happy about that!”
With an unbelievably close jump-off, all four double clear riders were all within a second of each other, giving the crowd a nail-biting finish to an epic day of top sport in one of the most iconic locations in the world. Circus Maximus, in the heart of ancient Rome, yet again played host to the Longines Global Champions Tour of Italy, with horses again entering the incredible historical location for the third time in over 2,000 years.
The Ultimate Jump Off…
Peder Fredricson delivered the first double-clear of the day with Catch Me Not S. The pair were smooth and fluid but left room for the time to be beaten. In a unique scenario, Andreas Schou riding I Know also stopped the clock with a clear round in the exact same time as Peder of 42.27 seconds, leaving the pair tying for first place at the halfway point.
But they didn’t stay in the lead for long as Germany’s David Will and My Prins van Dorperheide went all guns blazing to the last and cut just under a second off the time to beat – could this be a repeat of LGCT Mexico with this duo on top of the podium?
The crowd erupted for the iconic pairing of Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward as they flew around the 1.60m track with ease. Making light work of the track, they took strides out all over and stopped the clock in 41.26 seconds, snatching the lead from David Will.
There was disappointment for Malin Baryard-Johnsson, who still hasn’t qualified for the LGCT Super Grand Prix yet, as she finished with the fastest time of the day but the penultimate fence fell for H&M Indiana and they had to settle for a top-five finish.
Last to go, Julien Epaillard and the lightning-fast Donatello d’Auge, was looking for his third LGCT Grand Prix win of the year but he handed the win to world number one when his risky rollback didn’t pay off adding 4 faults to their score.
As the curtain falls on the Longines Global Champions Tour of Rome, riders and spectators from around the world look ahead to the nail-biting Finals in Riyadh from October 26-28.