This time, Smolders and his stallion, 13-year-old liver chestnut Don VHP Z, clinched the team competition for the world’s top riders at the Al Shaqab Equestrian Facility in Doha, Qatar on Saturday after they produced two clear rounds for Hamburg Diamonds.
Although defending champions Valkenswaard United won the 15th and final leg with four clear rounds, Hamburg Diamonds’ fifth place was enough to win the inaugural 2017 Longines Global Champions League title.
“After such a long season, to win the double here, I must be very, very thankful to my horses,” Smolders told LGCT TV.
The 37-year-old Dutchman, who started riding when he was eight years old, has been on top form all season, securing the individual Longines Global Champions Tour title with Don VHP Z in Rome in September. Smolders, who excelled in soccer as a teenager, was the first rider in the history of the Tour to clinch the title before the season finale.
“We wanted to win with the team, the pressure was there, the focus was there,” said Smolders. “After the first day we were behind, we were second but today everything fell together and Eric and I finished the job,” he added.
Fellow Hamburg Diamonds rider Eric Lamaze had produced nine penalties in the first round on Friday before going clear in the second — despite riding with a rib injury.
“We wanted to win this — Harrie has done so many clears for the team so it was my turn to help today,” said Canadian Lamaze, a former Olympic champion.
“We came here knowing we had to win here today, and unfortunately it wasn’t enough to win the League, but we gave it a good shot all year,” said Valkenswaard United rider Bertram Allen of Ireland. “We’ve had plenty of ups and downs but at least we finished on a really great note.”
Hamburg Diamonds ended the season with 312 points and prize money of €2.3 million. Valkenswaard United ended in second place with 308 points and €1.7 million, followed by Mexico Amigos with 250 points and €1.1 million in earnings.
Qatari rider Mohammed scores home win
After the conclusion of the team event, a capacity crowd at the state-of-the-art Al Shaqab arena, which included the Emir of Qatar, were treated to a tense final of the individual Longines Global Champions Tour.
With Smolders the overall winner, it was all about the battle for second and third place on the podium, with five riders being separated by just 15 points before Doha.
The crowd roared when Qatari rider Bassem Mohammed and Gunder edged Switzerland’s Janika Sprunger and Bacardi VDL by almost two seconds in a nine-rider jump-off to win the Doha leg of the Tour.
“I’m so happy for this result, and I hope it’s not the end, it’s just the start,” Mohammed said. “It’s so special to make all this crowd happy tonight, I am so proud for my horse, for my team and for myself.”
And there was more Dutch delight as Maikel van der Vleuten’s fourth place finish in Doha with VDL Groep Verdi TN meant he knocked Germany’s Christian Ahlmann off the podium to clinch second place behind Smolders on the overall leaderboard. Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca finished in third place.