Photo FEI/Dirk Caremans

Dutchman Harrie Smolders has won the ninth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping at Mechelen in Belgium.

‘Unforgettable moment’

Riding the 13-year-old gelding Zinius, he set an unbeatable target with a fearless run. Runner-up spot went to Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, who is now at the top of the league table, while Italy’s Luca de Lorenzo was third.

“I never won before at Mechelen and I really wanted to do it, so I was totally focused,” said Harrie. “When I got into the jump-off I just wanted to win. I was never riding for second place, so I took the risk by taking a stride out to the last.

“This is very special because I came here with all my family – my kids, my wife and my parents. It was an unforgettable moment and I’m very thankful to the crowd. The atmosphere here is always really intense and it gives us even more of a push to show what we can do!”

Freak fall

Eddy Geysemans’ tough first-round track got the better of many of the world’s top riders, including Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum who suffered a freak fall. After jumping the last, his horse Chacon mistakenly took on the double at fence five. Ludger tried to pull the 12-year-old up, but the pair ended up jumping the fence in the wrong direction, before parting company. Ludger was taken to hospital, where he had surgery to repair a multiple open fracture in his arm.

Ludger’s team put a post on Facebook, thanking people for their support:

“Ludger is hoping to make a speedy recovery following his operation this evening. We have been absolutely overwhelmed by so many kind messages and well wishes.”

There are just four of the 13 Western European league qualifiers remaining, with the next leg taking place in Leipzig, Germany on 21 January.

Don’t miss highlights of FEI World Cup Jumping: Mechelen when it premieres on 5 January at 8pm on Sky 253 or online via H&C Play or Amazon Video. The programme will then be available on Catch Up.