Hamburg 2018: Harrie Smolders on top of the world

With the tour having already visited Mexico City, Miami, Shanghai and Madrid, Germany, traditionally a major equestrian nation, will welcome the horses and riders for the fifth leg of the 2018 season.
Held at the purpose-build equestrian showground, The Derby-Park Klein Flottbeck, on the outskirts of the city, the Global Champions event takes place alongside the historic German Jumping and Dressage Derbies that have been held for decades.
The main jumping arena features natural obstacles such as ditches and a water jump as well as the famous 3.5-meter Wall — a crowd favorite when the horses and riders descend it during the Derby classes.
Whilst many come to see the famous bank being tackled, for most it’s the pull of the Longines Global Champions Tour and Global Champions League, as well as the sport’s very best equestrian athletes, that makes the show one not to be missed.

New world No. 1

Currently head of the pack is the 2017 LGCT Champion, and newly titled world No. 1, Harrie Smolders who will compete in both the individual LGCT Grand Prix as well as the Global Champions League as part of the Montreal Diamonds team.
The Dutchman recently secured top spot in the Longines world rankings for the first time in his career, taking the reins from Olympic silver medalist Kent Farrington who held the position since May 2017.
Hamburg will be just the second Global Champions event of the season for Smolders, who’s got ground to make up on the current rankings leader, Scott Brash. The British rider, a two-time LGCT winner, has 131 points, ahead of his compatriot Ben Maher on 103 points. Both riders will be absent from the Hamburg leg whilst competing in the UK but Smolders will face stiff competition, particularly from the home nation.
Top German riders including Marcus Ehning, Christian Ahlmann, Janne-Friederike Meyer and U25 star Laura Klaphake will be at the event but victory for the four-time Olympic Gold medallist Ludger Beerbaum would arguably rank as the most popular.
The 54-year-old suffered a horrific arm injury in December. He fell whilst competing at a World Cup event in Belgium and required surgery on a multiple open fracture of his upper arm. Having returned to the competition arena less than two months ago, this year he brings with him Casello and top mare Chiara — clearly looking for a repeat of his former success in Hamburg having taken the LGCT Grand Prix here in 2016 before going on to win a bronze medal for his nation at the Rio Olympic Games.
Beerbaum, who has also won two gold medals at World Championship level and an incredible eleven European Championship medals is without doubt one of the sport’s most decorated riders and is hugely admired for his horsemanship around the world.

Last year’s champion returns

It would be a poignant victory if Beerbaum triumphs in Hamburg this weekend but it would be hard to better last year’s emotional result. Twelve months ago, Swedish Olympian Rolf-Goran Bengtsson took victory on his formidable stallion Casall who was bowing out of the sport after a glittering career.
At the age of 18, it had been decided to retire the bay stallion on home soil following the Grand Prix. Few could have predicted that Casall would enjoy such a perfect send-off, winning the feature 300,000 Euro Grand Prix of Hamburg.
Bengtsson, the 2016 LGCT Overall Champion will return to the tour this weekend, riding as part of the Cascais Charms squad in the Global Champions League.