The German duo from Berlin Eagles powered by Fundis brought home a second win of the season, after a spectacular Spanish showdown saw thrills, spills and top sporting action. Christian Kukuk and Philipp Weishaupt withstood enormous pressure to convert their pole position into a win, stealing the top spot from the Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses and securing their place at the top of the overall rankings. London Knights power pairing of U25 rider Mike Kawai and Tobias Meyer secured bronze today helping them catapult up the overall rankings.
With a second win in the bag, the Eagles have furthered their lead in the Championship race with 98 points overall. Hamburg Giants slip down into second place, currently on 84 points, and Stockholm Hearts jump up to third with a points tally of 71.
First to go for the Eagles, Christian Kukuk smiled: "Both of us knew how important this show is, our boss at home didn't miss one day to tell us that we must get the ranking armband back. But I think we can be very happy we did our job. It is a very happy day for us and we are very proud to be in the lead. It is sometimes a dangerous situation when you go in knowing you can have three rails down. But I think we managed it quite well, especially Philipp with the double clear but I am also very proud of Checker for his first outdoor show and in this arena."
Philipp Weishaupt then added: "We are extremely happy. We were under pressure because we want to stay in the lead at the top. To go in last is always extra pressure. I have a great teammate and we have two fantastic horses. When you get to win here in Madrid it is extra special."
With blue skies painting the sky above the Club de Campo Madrid, Santiago Varela Ullastres’ course was another mix of galloping distances and delicate poles which fell at the lightest of touches when a hoof touched the rail. Built specifically around the grass arena that features gentle slopes, the flowing track was a true test for the world’s best, and the perfect prelude to the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Madrid.
Twelve teams made overnight changes with five new riders coming into the team competition today and eleven horse changes from round 1 but the top two teams Berlin Eagles and Rome Gladiators kept their lineups exactly the same.
Home team Madrid In Motion came into today’s showdown with a disappointing 16 faults but Mark McAuley lifted their spirits with Django Ste Hermelle after just 2 time faults. But two down from Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and Bentley de Sury meant it wasn’t their weekend.
Last year’s championship winners Valkenswaard United fielded Maurice Tebbel first who just added 4 faults to their overnight score after the final fence fell. Marcus Ehning then showed his skill with Stargold putting in a super clear to keep the team on 16 faults.
There were clear team orders for the Istanbul Sultans who both took risks with the inside turn between fence 2 and 3 making Sanne Thijssen’s clear on Con Quidam RB very speedy. Ömer Karaevli just had an unlucky one down with Cheston de la Pomme d'Or Z helping the Sultans finish in 7th place as the fastest team on 16 faults. Wearing the red ranking leaders armbands the Hamburg Giants opted for all the outside turns hoping for slow but crucial clear rounds. Bart Bles was just inside the time but Jur Vrieling had a hard knock adding 4 to their overnight score and having to settle for 6th place.
The biggest surprise of the day was season favourites on paper Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses who sat in 9th place overnight. A lightning-fast clear from Olivier Philippaerts and H&M Legend of Love followed by just a single rail from Malin Baryard-Johnsson and superstar H&M Indiana meant the team finished on 12 faults in a rapid time of 145.30s.
London Knights slipped behind the Hearts as they finished on the same number of faults but 5 seconds slower. U25 rider Mike Kawai and Goldwin continued their 100% clear rate in GCL finishing just one of three riders to jump a double clear. While teammate Tobias Meyer and Greatest Boy - H had two down but made up crucial seconds taking the inside line ot the final fence.
With just the Berlin Eagles left to go and jumping for the lead in the championship the excitement was palpable with three fences in hand to secure the win. The plank dramatically fell for Kukuk and Checker adding even more pressure to Philipp Weishaupt and Coby. The pair took it all in their stride and cruised around for a spectacular clear clinching the win as they punched the air.
So the win would go to a delighted Berlin Eagles team who had the perfect weekend. The GCL team series now looks to Ramatuelle, Saint-Tropez, where fans will witness the world’s best take centre stage for the fifth leg of the Championship race in true style.
My vision is clear. Only the best for the best.