Under the spectacular lights of the vast arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia it was Berlin Eagles who managed to keep their heads under immense pressure producing a double clear. The result makes the battle with Stockholm Hearts for the €6 million GCL overall season Championship even more thrilling.
With team manager Ludger Beerbaum on the sidelines watching carefully, Christian Kukuk and Philipp Weishaupt put in a class performance with Mumbai and Coby while Stockholm Hearts buckled under pressure.
The intense Championship battle between Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses and the Berlin Eagles powered by Fundis reached new a new height of drama in today’s round one, as all eyes move ahead to Saturday's show down.
Talking to GCTV about their tam intel Philipp said: "For today I feel delighted. We saw Stockholm [hearts] jump, both of their horses jumped good, both of their horses had an unusual fault which opened the door a little bit for us and we took that chance.
It's definitely not over, they could come back strong. It's not yet a reason to celebrate, thrilled with today but not yet over."
With the Stockholm Hearts leaving the arena on 8 faults, the Berlin Eagles changed their tactics according to Philipp: "We actually changed our strategy, at first the goal was to be quicker than the Stockholm Hearts if they jumped double clear - our goal was to jump double clear and be quicker so we can go into the final round behind them, because obviously it helps a lot if you see what they are doing. After they had two down we changed out strategy and said, you know what, we just try to leave the poles up. We take our time and just jump a clear round.
Our goal the whole year was to as good as we can. We took it pretty serious, we always took our best riders and the best horses in the team classes and I think it is just a final result that we staying where we stand now."
Stockholm Hearts represented by Peder Fredricson aboard his Olympic Team Gold and Individual Silver winning mount H&M All In, produced a heartbreaking and uncharacteristic four faults at the final fence alongside teammate Olivier Philippaerts aboard his usually uber consistent H&M Legend of Love, which slid the team into 14th position with 8 faults at the conclusion of GCL of Riyadh Round 1.
Olivier Philippaerts explained: "We are obviously dissapointed, we came here to jump clear, we came here with the best horses possible, and both rounds with four faults is not what we hoped and not what wanted. What i know is Saturday will be a tough track, lots of things can change, we opened the door and now its not really in our hands anymore.
I don't want to think about losing, i would rather think about winning. we are not giving up, we still have a couple of good horses and we're just going to go for it on Saturday and just try to get that double clear and hope the other ones make a mistake, today we just give them room for the win."
Round 1 of the GCL of Riyadh was dominated by Madrid in Motion, who pulled out all the stops when it counts. The impressive duo of Maikel van der Vlueten and Eduardo Alvarez Aznar taking to the arena providing the fastest double clear of the night.
Alvarez added: “ We can not be more happy. At this moment we are just thinking to be clear again on Saturday, and we are fighting to get a better spot for the Playoffs, so the way we started is just fantastic."
With day one of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Riyadh unfolding alongside the impressive launch of the festival of Diriyah, riders and spectators alike were treated to the thrills of light shows, music, and cultural indulgence underneath a towering national flag and glittering Arabian night sky.
Proving the high calibre of teams fighting for pole position heading into the deciding round of the 2022 GCL Season, 18 of the 32 riders took to the arena and ultimately produced clear rounds.
Following their impressive podium finishes in the previous class, it wasn’t to be for class pathfinders Istanbul Sultans in the GCL R1 of Riyadh, who found the technical course challenging, ultimately finishing on 16 faults. As the second team to go, the Scandinavian Vikings posted a respectable four faults between the two riders, Evelina Tovek and Yuri Mansur.
A masterclass followed, with a quick succession of double clear rounds leaving top teams and riders in prime position heading into tomorrow's GCL of Riyadh round two. Gregory Wathelet and Harrie Smolders left the arena leaving all fences standing for the Paris Panthers, along side Madrid in Motion's uber consistent Maikel van der Vlueten and Eduardo Alvarez Aznar.
The St Tropez Pirates made easy work of the Ulliano Vezzani built course, with on-form young-gun Michael Pender aboard HHS Calais, and LGCT of New York Grand Prix winner Daniel Deusser aboard his Scuderia 1918 Tobacgo Z.
Sixth to go saw the Shanghai Swans take to the arena, with just one rail falling between the two riders, Christian Ahlmann aboard his outstanding Solid Gold Z and Max Kuhner have ground to make up as they finish round 1 in 9th position.
Sitting sweetly in the overall 2022 GCL season standings in third position, the Prague Lions demonstrated their form yet again with two clears from Pieter Devos and Niels Bruynseels, leaving them wishing for no better place as they head into the final round of the GCL of Riyadh and ultimate series decider in 4th position .
With show jumping at its best making its mark in Diryah, just north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's impressive capital, riders were tested with an imposing and careful course from LGCT course designer Ulliano Vezzani. All eyes now look ahead to GCL Round 2 on Saturday, with the ultimate showdown between season leaders, Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses and Berlin Eagles powered by Fundis.
Van der Vleuten of Madrid in Motion provided his predictions in the final standings – “Berlin Eagles looked very safe today, they had two super rounds, so my feeling says they will be the overall winner."
As the GCL battle reaches its peak in the 2022 series, Riyadh provides and impressive destination for the final leg of the 2022 GCL series, with an unmissable season decider set to take place in the GCL of Riyadh Round 2 on Saturday .