The 2019 edition of Knokke Hippique is well underway with its first week of competition, and on Saturday evening the floodlights went on for the Top Series CSI3* Grand Prix presented by Carlsberg.
The 1.50m course was set by Christian Wiegand (GER) and counted thirteen fences including a triple combination and a double of uprights. It took a long time before the first clear came from Mohamed Taher Zeyada and Vizalaty (breeding unknown), but he was followed by another six world-class horse-and-rider combinations that managed clearing the track to proceed to the jump-off.
Mohamed Taher Zeyada opened the jump-off, but was unlucky to have the front pole on the last oxer down with a fast time in 36.20 seconds. Stephex Stables’ own Daniel Deusser (GER) followed, but unfortunately had to see two poles fall to the ground.
Next in the ring was Harrie Smolders (NED) on the impressive 15-year-old stallion Don VHP (Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire). The big striding stallion made light work of the shortened course and crossed the finish line in 39.73 seconds and went into the lead.
It was not Pål Flam’s (NOR) jump-off, and when Michel Hendrix (NED), Lorenzo De Luca (ITA) and Juulia Jyläs (FIN) all had one rail down each the victory was Smolder’s – his second of the day as the Dutch rider also won Saturday’s Top Series 1.45m with Monaco (Cassini II x Contender). Mohamed Taher Zeyada finished second with Vizalaty, Lorenzo De Luca third with Soory de l’Hallali (For Pleasure x Pegase Gerbaux) while Jyläs and Hendrix completed the top five.
“Don jumped two good and solid rounds today, like we are used to from him,” Smolders commented after. “However, I did not expect to win. Don is not the fastest, and as there were some quick combinations coming behind us I expected to end somewhere like 3rd or 4th. But in the end, it all turned our way and I could not wish for a better result! We are on the right way to step up in form and shape, like we have to if we want to go to the European Championships in August.”
“Knokke Hippique is a great venue,” Smolders said. “It has lots of room for the horses and riders to train and get ready for the classes, which is really nice. It also has a lot of opportunities for us as professionals, alongside our best horses we can bring our younger and less experienced horses and also our students. We all find what we need here!”
Smolders is now in the run for the Top Series Leading Rider Award. The best Top Series rider after four weeks of competition at Knokke Hippique wins a STX 2 Horse Truck for one year.
The first week of Knokke Hippique concludes on Sunday 23rd of June, while the second week of competition gets underway on Thursday 27th of June. The highlight of week two will be the CSI5* competitions that run alongside the Top Series, Super Cup, Prestige League and Future Stars – with the excitement building up throughout the weekend for Sunday’s CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix worth a staggering 500 000 Euro.
Next to top sport, Knokke Hippique offers a stunning Lifestyle Village, gastronomic experiences, as well as its signature entertainment and after-parties. Free entrance!
Full results from Saturday’s Top Series Grand Prix presented by Carlsberg can be found via this link.
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