It was a spectacular case of “mission accomplished” Danielle Goldstein (ISR) was crowned the leading lady of China with a scorching victory in the Shanghai Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix. A delighted Dani, who won the lion’s share of 610,000 euros, said: “We all come here with a mission and I feel I accomplished my mission today.”
Riding the magnificent, big-jumping mare Lizziemary and with trademark feathers flying in her hair, Danielle rocketed home as the fastest of nine top class combinations who had qualified from 35 starters for a gripping jump-off in the fourth event of the Championship season.
Danielle Goldstein on Lizziemary. Photo by Stefano Grasso/LGCT
She becomes the first female rider to top the podium in Shanghai and bagged her debut golden ticket to this year’s LGCT Super Grand Prix in Prague in November: “That adds huge extra pressure but makes it more thrilling. I’m super looking forward to going to Prague.
“I am really delighted today. My horse jumped amazing and it all worked out for me. I didn’t nail the first line the way I’d have liked, but I made it up somewhere else. This is the one everyone wants to win — we’ve come a long way, so this has made it all worthwhile and the crowd has been amazing. I love China and have been here many times so be able to come here and feel I’ve inspired young girls — everybody — is amazing.”
Just eight hundredths of a second separated the top two riders and it was Darragh Kenny (IRL) on Balou du Reventon who claimed the runner-up spot. He endured an agonizing wait as leader before seeing Danielle smash his time.
“Dani did one less stride to the last fence and that made a huge difference,” said Kenny. “I’ve been aiming my horse for this for two months now and it’s a great show.”
Champagne celebration for Danielle Goldstein Jur Vrieling and Darragh Kenny. Photo by Stefano Grasso/LGCT
From early draw, Jur Vrieling (NED) took the final spot on the podium after a brilliant round on the towering VDL Glasgow v. Merelsnest: “I’m really proud with how Glasgow jumped — he was playing with the fences. He’s not the fastest horse for this jump-off and I thought taking out a stride would be too much risk. I was aiming for top three finish so I’m very happy to get it.”
In fourth with the only other double clear was Luciana Diniz of Portugal, who coaxed every inch of talent out of the 11-year-old stallion Camargo 2.
Belgian riders now top the overall leader board after the first four rounds in the LGCT championship with Pieter Devos (BEL) leading the way, ahead of countryman Niels Bruynseels and Germany’s Daniel Deusser third.
Devos explained: “I was very happy to be here in Shanghai, it’s a fantastic event. I’ve done four shows with three different horses, so have always been able to bring a fresh horse which is why I think I’m in the lead and it makes me very happy.”
Passionate Chinese fans packed the stands, with many ladies bedecked in their finest outfits for what has become a big social occasion, and they cheered every global superstar who entered the arena. They were even more thrilled to support national rider You Zhang and his horse Caesar. At the age of 18, he was the first Chinese rider to have qualified for a LGCT Grand Prix after a superb round earlier in the day.
There were plenty of new faces among the 35-strong field of riders tackling Uliano Vezzani’s imposing course, and even many of the professionals were left scratching their heads as they assessed the obstacles beforehand.
As the penultimate pairing from nine starters to attempt Uliano’s shortened jump-off track under lengthening shadows in the evening sunshine, Danielle and the big jumping British-bred Lizziemary gave their all for the second time and with great bravery took out a stride to the final fence to gain the winning advantage. She was quick to pay credit to the 13-year-old, who always displays immense agility: “She’s like a rocket ship underneath you, she’s full of raw power and she tries your heart out for you.
Danielle Goldstein on Lizziemary. Photo by Stefano Grasso/LGCT
“Sometimes you have a horse on whom you’re happy to be in the top three but sometimes it’s a privilege and an honour to have one you can have a shot to win with. It’s amazing to ride a horse like Lizziemary and today it worked out. I’m thrilled.”
In the jump off, first out of the blocks was Portugal’s Luciana Diniz riding the 11-year-old stallion Camargo 2. The pair soared over first oxer, curled round to the Longines double, propelled forward across the arena, then negotiated a smooth roll back with a twist over the Massimo Dutti fence and over the last for an efficient double clear in 41.53s.
Second to go was Dutch rider Jur Vrieling and VDL Glasgow v. Merelsnest. The pair accelerated through the start, maneuvered a neat turn back to the Longines double where the clock indicated they were a fraction up. Vrieling kept pushing and maintained the momentum to post another clear a fraction quicker 40.63s and already the lead switched hands.
Darragh Kenny on Balou du Reventon. Photo by Stefano Grasso/LGCT
Next to take center stage was Ireland’s Darragh Kenny on the 13-year-old Balou du Reventon and the pace was immediately increased as every inch of ability shone through to great appreciation from spectators. They nailed a superb angle to the Masimmo Dutti fence and took a phenomenal flyer over the last in 38.06s with all the poles still in tact.
Fourth to go and always one to keep an eye on was Alberto Zorzi (ITA) with the tail-swishing mare Ulane de Coquerie, but she ducked out at the Longines double, catching everyone by surprise, not least her rider. They finished with a total of 12 faults in 55.58s.
Hot on their heels was Dutch rider Marc Houtzager on the 12-year-old Sterrehof’s Calimero with Kenny’s target of 38.06s to beat. Hugely agile and with a trademark flick of the heels, they took every inside turn, again with a flyer at the last but the risk didn’t pay off and the rail fell, dropping them to fourth with four faults in 38.55s.. Darragh Kenny could breath a sigh of relief – for the moment.
All eyes turned to series leader Pieter Devos (BEL), hoping for back to back wins and calling on extra effort from the 14-year-old chestnut gelding Apart. Devos is always a formidable opponent and riding with supreme confidence but Apart just hit the front rail of the Massimo Dutti fence, soaring home faster in 37.49s but with four faults.
The next Belgian Niels Bruynseels and the huge-striding and ultra-supple Delux van T&L made another dominant performance and were up on the clock, but the final fence fell for them, too, for four faults just off the pace in 38.21s.
With two left to jump, Danielle Goldstein and Lizziemary looked poised once again to give it their all. They couldn’t quite reach the pace set by some of their rivals but some sensational turns and a pioneering stride out to the last vertical resulted in a sensational clear in 37.98s, some eight hundredths of a second quicker than the Irishman.
With the advantage of final draw and a legendary racing name, France’s Titouan Schumacher of France proved his ability in top gear in his first LGCT appearance with Atome Z. It was a buzzy round but they were another pair to succumb to the Massimo Dutti penultimate fence for four faults in 39.12s.