Longines Global Champions Tour: Get ready for the biggest year yet

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Story highlights

  • Show jumping's richest competition kicks off March 22-25 in Mexico City
  • Dutchman Harrie Smolders claimed the 2017 crown
  • A record €35 million of prize money is on offer for the world's top 25 riders

(CNN)It promises to be an epic year on show jumping's most prestigious circuit, with the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) and the Global Champions League (GCL) bigger and better than ever before.

This season, the world's top riders and their horses will battle it out for $43 million across all Global Champions competitions.
With two new stops, the LGCT will take place in a record 17 locations across the globe, while the GCL boasts more teams than ever before with 19 competing for top honors.
    And December 2018 will also see the inaugural Global Champions Play Offs in Prague, which boasts a record prize purse of $10m and will see the winning team ride away with $3m.
    Prague will also play host to the first Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix, which pits the winners of each LGCT event throughout the year against each other in a season-ending spectacular.
    Harrie Smolders shines in 2017 LGCT and GCL
    Harrie Smolders shines in 2017 LGCT and GCL

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    Rich and Famous

    Competitors include a host of Olympic, world and European champions, including 2017 LGCT winner Harrie Smolders of the Netherlands, who also claimed the Global Champions League crown with the Hamburg team. This year he'll ride for Montreal Diamonds and he's looking forward to the first ever playoffs.
    "It's something totally new, but I think it's going to be really exciting," defending champion Smolders told the tour website. "And it's something that I must say, the Global is renewing our sport while also respecting the heritage."
    "They keep the same values," added the Dutchman, who is joining the Montreal Diamonds this season."
    Seasoned pros rub shoulders with the likes of Greek heiress Athina Onassis and the daughters of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, rock star Bruce Springsteen and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, who have all competed against each other on the tour.
    The world's most valuable horses
    exp longines global champions tour global champions league berlin ludger beerbaum_00002001

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    Saint Tropez, Prague

    The LGCT was founded in 2006 by Dutchman Jan Tops, who won Olympic team gold at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games, as a way to make the sport more accessible to a wide audience.
    The formula was simple: gather the very best horses and riders to compete at some of the world's most famous and iconic locations.
    Pampelonne Beach
    Now in its 13th season, the tour has gone from strength to strength, adding Saint Tropez on the French Riviera -- where riders will be competing on the legendary Pampelonne Beach famous for its turquoise waters -- and Prague to its calendar.
    During the nine-month long season, the tour will visit Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East. Destinations include the Atlantic shoreline of Miami Beach, Paris by the Eiffel Tower, London by the River Thames, Shanghai, Monaco and Doha.

    First Stop: Mexico City

    The tour kicks off at high altitude between March 22 and 25 in Mexico City, where thousands of spectators will be gathering around the huge grass arena of the Campo Marte, in the heart of the city.
    Previous winners include French Olympic medalist Roger-Yves Bost and Switzerland's Martin Fuchs.
    The Global Champions League team competition, which has a record prize pot of $12.3 million this season, will finish with the inaugural Prague Playoffs on between December 13 and 16 for the top 16 teams.
    The Playoffs, the first indoor event in the history of the tour, are expected to attract some 56,000 spectators over four days at the city's O2 Arena shortly before Christmas.
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    Heritage, Innovation

    For Tops, the co-founder of the Global Champions League and president of Longines Global Champions Tour, remaining at the forefront of his sport is key.
    "Our mission is to continue innovating and growing show jumping towards an ever more healthy and sustainable future like other sports in the modern era," he told the LGCT website.
    "That is what we have been about from the beginning to make sure the sport keeps moving ahead in the interests of riders, fans, owners, sponsors and media.
    "Along with the strengths of the Longines Global Champions Tour and the regular GCL team circuit, the new League play offs will be unique in show jumping and the exciting format will attract more fans and new audiences."