In the most competitive GCL round 2 of the 2022 season, it was the Berlin Eagles powered by Fundis who snatched the 2022 Championship title away from Stockholm Hearts to be crowned the new champions and take home the lion's share of over €6 million prize money.
It was all about big names, big views and big guns as the Eagles fielded their top horses in their bid to seize the GCL Championship.
Stealing the spotlight in Riyadh, Christian Kukuk aboard Mumbai and Philipp Weishaupt with Coby carried the weight of their fellow teammates to post an impressive double clear in immense pressure. Under the watchful and expert eye of team owner, manager and rider, Ludger Beerbaum, Kukuk and Weishaupt rose to the occasion to secure top podium position and take home the enviable title.
1st Berlin Eagles - 289 points
2nd Stockholm Hearts - 284 points
An ecstatic and relieved Kukuk revealed: "It feels amazing, I think there was quite a lot of pressure on us this weekend and both of us said well ‘we hope that this day goes over quick’. In the end now we are very, very happy – we did a great job over the whole season. We took it very seriously and hard work pays always off and I think that’s what it is about today. I think if you look over the whole season, the results, not only us and Ludger, and Eoin and Philipp was a shame that he was injured so early in the season. We took it very seriously and all of us I think had a big big part in this win now and as Philipp said, we should celebrate it enough."
Second part of the dream team Weishaupt smiled: "We have been waiting three or four days here to prepare for exactly this moment – now it finally happened and I can't really believe it. I am super delighted, Coby jumped amazing, he showed what a great horse he is and I am very happy we won it now and we are going to celebrate a lot I am sure. I was just praying after Christian jumped B in the trebble, please, please leave rails up. Mumbai finished after the treble very good. I had a stumble in the combination, and thought ‘oh my god it’s not our day today’ and I knew I could only haveone down. I did what I usually did, I didn’t go slow or do anything different, and thank god it worked out, otherwise, it’d be a really hard way back home."
Ludger Beerbaum then spoke highly of his students saying: "Our main focus was the GCL this year, we didn’t do too many other events also, and the others had more different because they had the World Equestrian Games and they had other obligations like the Nations Cups – we were really focussed as a stable team for the GCL and I think this was our strength.
But I would also like to say that to win the overall title, it’s not only about the last 48 hours here, its been a real team effort the whole season long. Starting in Doha all the way to Riyadh."
Taking place where the past and future of Saudi Arabia collide, this year's Final was a spectacle to go down in history. Diriyah, just north of the country’s capital, Riyadh, is considered the center of Saudi Arabia’s rich history. Many local and international spectators alike joined to witness the best of the very best vie for a podium position and HH Prince Abdullah bin Fahad Al Saud - president of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation present the prizes.
Uliano Vezzani produced a masterpiece of a course, featuring a tricky triple combination away from the VIP hospitality playing most influential. As fans packed the grandstands and flocked to the shopping village, the world’s best teams took to the arena for the final shot at the Championship rankings this year.
Heading into GCL R2 of Riyadh, the standings couldn't have been closer. With the Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses heading in with a narrow lead of just one point but they ultimately left the arena with a total of 16 jumping penalties over the weekend even after a clear from Malin Bayard Johnsson & H&M Indiana but it was a costly two down for Olivier Philippaerts on H&M Legand of Love, that left room for error for Berlin Eagles.
Speaking of the Stockholm Hearts tactics and performance, Olivier Philippaerts said: "We came here with the best horses as possible and we sat down together with Malin and Peder to get the best horse and rider combination to start, and we did, just unfortunately this week we made too many mistakes and we opened the door for Berlin to go in with the win which also happened. Congratulation for their success, they deserve it, and we come back again next year."
Rounding out the 2022 GCL Season Podium, finishing in third place, Prague Lions were represented by Pieter Devos and Niels Bruynseels. A cracking double clear from Bruynseels and Matador, and an unlucky single pole from Devos and Mom's Toupie de la Roque in the second round left them with just four faults on the scoreboard but crucially ahead of Shanghai Swans.
With the four top teams in the final GCL 2022 Standings securing a fast track pass straight to the Semi-Finals of GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs it was Shanghai Swans just one down today that gave them 4th in the overall ranking.
Separate from the Championship decider, the St Tropez Pirates won the GCL Final in Riyadh with Daniel Deusser (Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z) and Mickey Pender (HHS Calais) getting their first top spot on the podium this year. Paris Panthers’ duo of Harrie Smolders (Monaco) and Ben Maher (Faltic HB) taking second in New York, and Christian Ahlmann (Dominator 2000 Z) and Max Kühner (Elektric Blue P) from Shanghai Swans in third today.
LGCT 2023? Kukuk of the Berlin Eagles already has his eyes on a back-to-back win: "Next year we take it even more serious the whole league. It was a long season, but there were so many emotional and cool moments. We are really looking forward to Prague, as last year we got fixed with the podium and we definitely try to get there again. We are looking forward already to next year."
With the 2022 Champion GCL teams named as the Berlin Eagles powered by Fundis, Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M and Prague Lions, after a season that has taken them from Mexico to Madrid, Miami Beach to Monaco, riders now look ahead to Prague for the ultimate final showdown of the year and one last chance for record breaking prize money at the Prague Playoffs.
My vision is clear. Only the best for the best.