It was the GCT final of the season in Riyadh where the final should be tough, exciting and full of surprises. The biggest winner of the evening was Michael Bender who won the second GCT Grand Prix with HHS Calais (by Cavalier Royale) and the first prize of €300,000. Harry Smulders finished second with the Monaco NOP (by Cassini II), followed by Long John Silver 3 (by Lasino) who was overtaken by Jur Vrieling.
Jur Vrieling was the first to start in the GCT final with a height of 1.60 metres. While the course was running, it became clear that this was a very difficult stage as there were only a few left. The fact that Jur Vrieling was the first player to keep a clean sheet with his phenomenal archery was a boost and also showed right away when this horse is at his best. He doesn’t like his speed, but if others can’t get past it, the only 10-year-old eunuch makes waves as he still remains decimeters above the poles. When Harry Smulders also kept the roster clean as a third starter with the Monaco NOP, the idea began to emerge that it might not be as difficult as supposed after exploring the track because two out of three starters are generally a sign of a busy jump-off. When the jump was still made up of two Dutchmen on the arrival of player number 20, it was clear that it was already as difficult as it looked after the course.
With Smolders and Vrieling, Irish Michael Bender and Swedish Malin Baryard-Johnsson with her super mare H&M Indiana (by Kashmir van Schutterhof) also managed to qualify.
Bin Maher the winner for the third time
The first record to be broken was Bin Maher’s third league win. Where he won the previous two times with Explosion W (by Chacco-Blue), this year was mainly Faltic HB (by Baltic VDL). Adding more brilliance to this third win was the fact that he was the first league winner to do so without winning any Grand Prix.
At the start of the final, Maher was slightly ahead of Peter DeVos and Christian Ahlmann. It was clear, however, that it would be one of those three who would take the overall win because the lead over the rest of the field was too big to discover in this last division. Peter DeVos was the first to enter the ring among the trio. Although he hasn’t ridden in a class with more than four penalty points with Mom’s Toupie de la Roque (by Kannan) all year, he dropped two rods today and lost his chances for an overall victory.
Next came Ahlmann who knew he had to stay clear in order to have a chance to get ahead of Maher if he didn’t manage to stay away. But unfortunately for the German, Dominator Z (s.Diamant de Semilly) made two mistakes in the triple jump and Ben Maher already knew he was the champion without riding himself. The fact that Maher himself also had a jumping bug causing him to miss the jump is likely to be mitigated greatly by the fact that he was the only rider ever to win the GCT competition three times. Records are there to be broken.
Maybe that’s what Michael Bender also thought when he took home the top prize at the GCT Grand Prix for the second time this season, knowing that no U-25 rider or rider has done this feat before.
For winning the comet, Maher received a bonus of 232,500 euros, Peter Devos 150,000 and Ahlmann 97,500. Vrieling took fifth place in the final standings with a bonus of 37,500 euros.
Jur Vrieling had to start first and knew he wasn’t on the fastest horse. In fact, he was sure that it was the slowest of the four, but that didn’t stop him from getting the maximum speed out of Long John Silver that contained it. Strength, power and perfect jumping technique make nearly every Fries ride with Long John a joy. He also jumped off the roof in this jump and finished the job in 38.83 seconds. His hopes of winning were that the other three would irritate each other in such a way that they would all make mistakes.
But the opposite happened. Harry Smulders rode a jump like we’re used to, fast but always in control at 36.68sec, so he was the new leader in the race. For an all-or-nothing jump, you shouldn’t go to Smolders. He’s fast, more than fast enough to win several Grands Prix, but seeing him run frantically toward obstacles is an image he’ll never show, then only second.
That was exactly how Michael Bender took first place at Smulders, because on the last fence, a broad bull, the young Irishman was quite a meter tall and flew his horse over her with his front feet outstretched. But that’s just enough and the new leader in the ranking was named Michael Bender.
Finally, Malin-Baryard Johnsson has entered the arena and she is also known to be second to none when it comes to speed. She got off to a quick start and was ahead of Bender’s table after four hurdles. But on the fifth, something went wrong and H&M Indiana threw a pole to the ground. She had a good time to take the win, but a missing crossbar brought her back to fourth. Which was still good for €90,000. Smolders received 180,000 euros and Vrieling 135,000.
Harry Smulders also put his place for Prague after St. Thijsen
Where Sanne Thijssen was forced to take part in the Super Final in Prague due to her victory in Madrid, Harrie Smolders uses a backdoor. With both Pender and Baryard-Johnson already winning the GCT GP earlier this season, it was clear that Jur Vrieling and Harrie Smolders would decide among themselves who would get the last ticket to this super final. It was Smulders who kicked off and will be the second Dutch player after St Thyssen to appear in the Super Final in November in Prague.
Final Ranking Contest