Monaco Aces’ Jos Verlooy and Julien Epaillard roared to pole position in a high drama GCL Rome first round at the stunning new location of Circus Maximus. With the Championship ranking set for a potential shakeup this weekend, it is all to play for going into tomorrows’ showdown.
The ferocious battle between teams played out for the first time in one of the most exceptional arenas for show jumping in the world today and only one kilometre from the Colosseum where the gladiatorial games took place. With no double clears and just the Monaco Aces, Shanghai Swans and Paris Panthers on 4 faults the fight has intensified to finish in the top four of the Championship race.
Speaking after their performance Jos Verlooy said: “It was big enough already for the first day so there were many faults but we are happy to start tomorrow in pole position. My horse is very inexperienced at this level. We had a very unlucky rail but I think it’s a super experience for him to jump on these shows and I’m excited about his future."
Teammate Julien Epaillard then went on to offer their team tactics: “It’s a beautiful atmosphere here and I really like to be here. Everything is perfect for the horses and riders and it's a pleasure to come here. Tomorrow I coach, I don’t ride and we change the team to Jeanne Sadran and we also have a job to do tomorrow.”
On home turf, Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani relished the challenge of setting a tough track and made full use of the arena. Vezzani’s course showcased fences depicting Roman symbols, including a beautiful Colosseum oxer that caused the most problems. Horses and riders were tested by a delicate last line and a wide GCL oxer set by the in-gate to finish.
Fans flocked to the venue, with free entry for the public meaning many could enjoy top sport and thrilling action in the heart of Rome.
New York Empire
Shane Breen was first to go this weekend, piloting his experienced Z7 Ipswich. The pair stopped the clock just inside the time allowed but with three down the team were on the back foot straight away. Denis Lynch brought out GC Chopin’s Bushi knowing only a clear would keep them in contention today. There was heartache when the plank fell before the pair also had a pole coming out of the combination leaving the team carrying 20 faults over to tomorrow.
Making her debut on the Shanghai Swans this year Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Indiana proved just why they were an important midseason signing. The combination cruised round the course to pick up the first clear round and in a fairly fast time. Christian Ahlmann powered round on Mandato van de Neerheide at a steadier pace and came home with one down causing the Swans to finish on 4 faults in 131.35 seconds.
Constant van Paesschen brought out his top horse Isidoor van de Helle to tackle the testing track. The pair gave it everything they had, delivering the goods with a flawless clear round before handing the baton over to Titouan Schumacher. Also bringing out his top ride of Atome Z, Schumacher felt the pressure and picked up 8 faults but still leaving the team in good standing for tomorrow just one pole behind the leaders.
Continuing her flying form Eve Jobs and Venue d'Fees des Hazalles delivered another stellar clear round once again proving why they are a crucial U25 member of the team. Trainer Eddie Macken cheered from the kiss and cry as the pair crossed through the timers. Team anchor Harrie Smolders had an unusual one down with Monaco leaving them on just the four faults in 135.00 exactly.
Madrid In Motion
The poles kept falling all around the course as Eric van der Vleuten on Wunschkind and Marlon Módolo Zanotelli riding Like A Diamond van het Schaeck both has one down each to put 8 faults on the tally. Eric opted for a slow and steady pace while Marlon took all the inside options and sped around the course to help the team finish as the second fastest on 8 faults.
The Colosseum fence caught out Sameh El Dahan and WKD Aimez Moi this time as they tried to approach it tighter than previously tried. Abdel Saïd and Bandit Savoie had 12 faults to add to Sameh’s four meaning the Cannes Stars would carry a total of 16 faults over to tomorrow slipping them just outside the top 10.
Jos Verlooy was the first to go for the Monaco Aces, bringing forward his horse Luciano van het Geinsteinde who looked in supreme form. They glided around the arena clear until the last fence as he was another rider to have the back rail of the colosseum fence adding four to their total. Julien Epaillard saved the team on Calgary Tame clear with a blistering fast clear round making neat work of the tight turns and using the inside line for all options. They stopped the clock with a team total of 129.16 seconds, the only team sub 130 seconds and secured pole position for Saturday’s showdown.
Young talent Evelina Tovek and Winnetou de la Hamente Z had the unluckiest of poles but still kept them in contention for starting at the sharp end of the grid tomorrow. The Colosseum oxer also fell for Geir Gulliksen and VDL Groep Quatro along with the tricky plank catapulting the Vikings score up to a total of 12.
Johnny Pals and Charley unexpectedly refused early on in the course before the pair got unsettled and they came home with 14 faults. U25 rider Andrej Oplatek came out in flying form on the striking grey Stakkatan. It was a costly two down bringing the team total up to 22 faults leaving them with lots of work to do in Saturday's final.
It was an all-female linlineupr the Berlin Eagles with Jane Richard Philips pairing up with Laura Klaphake. Riding the talented Clipper du Haut du Roy, Jane had a perfect start to the course in a flowing rhythm. Unfortunately, it all started to fall apart in the second half and they had to settle for 13 faults on the scoreboard. Laura Klaphake brought out Quin, the 11 year old stallion with his ears forward throughout the course responding beautifully to Laura’s request. The pair took it all in their stride just having one pole down putting the team on a score of 17 today.
It was a solid performance from the Hamburg Giants as they started their quest to climb up the rankings. Suus Kuyten and Alfa Jordan knocked one down jumping into the Rome combination while Bart Bles and Comme-Laude W also had one to add to their score. The team finished the slowest out of the five teams on 8 faults but in a respectable 8th place overnight.
St Tropez Pirates
After looking in top form Dani G. Waldman and Happy Girl lost steam halfway around the course and poles kept falling for the pair. They picked up a total of 20 faults before passing the reins to Olivier Robert and Vangog du Mas Garnier. They put in a flawless display of horsemanship to secure a clear round and keep the team on 20 overall.
The overall ranking leaders, Valkenswaard United put forward Olympic gold medalist Peder Fredricson first on Christian K. The 14 year old bay gelding was a touch fresh and enthusiastic, giving Peder plenty to do. A single pole fell at the wide Longines Oxer putting the pressure on teammate Edwina Tops-Alexander to go clear and keep United in a good position ahead of tomorrow. It was also 4 faults on the board for Tops-Alexander and Fellow Castlefield as Valkenswaard United finished with a total of 8 and in 7th place overall.
First to go for the Prague Lions was Jur Vrieling with his 10 year old Fiumicino van de Kalevallei. They soared around the arena, at a lightning-fast pace they almost banked a clear but an unlucky pole added 4 to their team. Under 25 rider Anna Kellnerova and Catch me If You Can OLD crossed the finish line also with just 4 to add and keeping the Lions the fastest team on 8 faults to secure 4th place after round 1.
It wasn’t to be today for the Cascais Charms as Sadri Fegaier and Chianti's Champion finished on a disappointing 25 faults before Roger Yves Bost and Bluemuch des Baleines added another 8 faults to their total as they sit at the bottom of the leaderboard on 33 faults overall.
Olivier Philippaerts and Zayado had to go clear if they wanted to take pole position but an early fence put them straight out of contention as they couldn’t match the pace of Monaco Aces. Last to go Olympic individual Gold Medalist Ben Maher opted for Ginger-Blue in the first round. It wasn’t his day as the pair picked up an unusual 8 faults and the London Knight go into tomorrow’s showdown with 12 faults already on the scoreboard.
My vision is clear. Only the best for the best.