Next to Rome's Olympic Stadium and in a unique arena surrounded by classical marble statues, the gladiators of show jumping thrilled thousands of fans who lined the natural amphitheatre to cheer on the world's top riders.
The final podium of the €300,000 Grand Prix was truly world class. Rolf took first place in emphatic style with the extraordinarily consistent stallion Casall ASK. Luciana Diniz and Fit for Fun finished second with Germany's Marcus Ehning in third position.
German champion Marcus described the venue as "unbelievable" for show jumping and images of the location were beamed around the world to fans of the sport online and on TV.
Only five riders reached the jump off after two clear rounds.
The bar was set, and Mexico's Alberto Michán Halbinger was the first to jump with his bay stallion Camilo LS La Silla, setting the pace at 39.24s but had an unlucky fence down. Denis Lynch (IRL) and the expressive All Star 5 followed suit with four faults despite a better tine of 39.06s. Luciana Diniz (POR) and Fit For Fun 13 completed a stunning clear round, the first of the clears and set the pace at 38.00s exactly. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) was next in and rode a masterful clear round with Casall ASK and lighting up the time sheets to the cheers of the crowd as he crossed the finish in 37.87s. The galloping track suited Pénélope Leprevost with her bay 10 year old stallion Vagabond de la Pomme, but she was unable to better the time, and went clear in 39.02s, finishing in 4th place. All eyes were on supreme talent Marcus Ehning (GER) and Comme il faut as he was the last to go, and the crowd and VIP guests were on the edge of their seat as he came home in 38.32s, just fractions away from Luciana.
It was another win for Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) who has had a formidable season with his second Grand Prix title of 2015 with Casall ASK. The Tour now moves to Vienna for the penultimate Grand Prix of the year.
Jan Tops, President and Founder of Longines Global Champions Tour: "This is one of those events where it is difficult to describe how beautiful it is. The setting is unique, it is iconic and beautiful and our team did an amazing job for the horses with the facilities and not to forget the crowd, I did not expect to get such a crowd for our first year, they acknowledged and really cheered on everyone.
"I want to thank Vittorio [Orlandi] for his belief that we could be here. To get the chance to be here and for the Global Champions Tour to be in this iconic place, thank you very much. I would also like to thank the Italian Federation who have been very supportive to us being here especially Vittorio, he has been a horseman for many years, I know him as a long time friend, and he has been very supportive to have us here in this amazing place.
"Also, he's one of the biggest artists of the show, the course builder Uliano, we have had incredible sport again with the right numbers in the jump off, good for the horses, good riders are now on the podium, it's an incredible package of riders with us here again and you can only do that if you have a very good course builder.
"After this weekend it is getting more and more exciting, Rolf is here again and the Championships are getting so close. Scott is still in the lead but right on his tail is Luciana and Rolf and they still have a chance to win so it will be very very tight for the final in Doha."
Vittorio Orlandi, President of FISE (Italian Equestrian Federation): "I really would like to thank Jan Tops for having brought here this wonderful wonderful show. It is helped by the beauty of the town and the beauty of the surroundings. I am really really proud because many of the people involved with the technical organisation of the Global Champions Tour are Italian, starting from Marco Danese, the sporting director, Uliano the course designer, and many other people, it makes me very proud to be Italian.
"I feel like the father of all Italian riders and just like a father, I would like to say thank you in the name of everyone for giving us the chance to host the Longines Global Champions Tour here in Rome - thank you, thank you Jan Tops."
Elisa Gasparini, Brand Manager for Longines Italy: "We are very pleased and honoured to be here and sponsor of this great event in Rome, we are very happy and we have a great success, it's just fantastic so thank you very much to the organisation."
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, winner of the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Rome: "I would like to thank everybody. It's a fantastic show, with a great atmosphere. There is a fantastic crowd for the first year. Everything is really nice and being able to win here with my horse Casall ASK on top of all of it is amazing. Casall ASK is a fantastic horse, year after year, always providing clear rounds like today in Rome. I really want to thank my sponsors, the owner of the horse and of course the whole team who support me."
Luciana Diniz, second place: "I love Rome, I love the show, it's so beautiful, congratulations to all of you. I want to thank my team as well. They make it possible to do such a great season. I feel like a winner today and I want to dedicate this victory to my children and my ex-husband. I thank all of you for this beautiful show."
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