26 March 2024

Cannes Stars, Powered by Iron Dames: Hype or Hope?

Cannes Stars, Powered by Iron Dames: Hype or Hope?

Depending on traffic, it will take you about 45 minutes to drive from the ancient marvel of the Circus Maximus in Rome, to the Vallelunga Circuit. Both of which are historical horse racing tracks, with the Circus Maximus now hosting the GCL of Rome, which is stage 14 in 2024. 

Since the 1950s, the Vallelunga Circuit has undergone many transformations leading to the racetrack it is now. At the venue, one can spot the pink-highlighted cars of the Iron Dames during their testing session or even racing at speeds over 200km/h.

The link between horses and race cars led to the selection of the venue for the official launch of the rebranded Cannes Stars in late 2023, now officially titled Cannes Stars powered by Iron Dames, at the Vallelunga. Janne Friederieke Meyer Zimmerman, Sanne Thijssen, Kim Emmen, Natalie Dean, and Sophie Hinners were presented as an all-female line-up with high ambitions for the 2024 championship.

But what role can the team play in the 2024 GCL season? There are reasons to believe that they have what it takes to challenge the 'traditional' male-dominated teams.

Stage 1. Doha. Victory.

There's no better way to start the season and underline your ambitions than with a win at the opening stage. In Doha, the Cannes Stars powered by Iron Dames found themselves in a very positive 3rd position after the first round, carrying just one rail into the 2nd round. Leading a group of 5 teams on the same score, Sanne Thijssen and Janne Frederieke Zimmerman Meyer had shown their sense of pace and secured a good position for Round 2.

Sanne Thijssen made room for Sophie Hinners going into Round 2, and the team’s fast double clear handed them the lead when overtaking Mexico Amigos on time. With just two teams to go, Cannes Stars powered by Iron Dames had secured their first podium of the season in their new outfit, adorned with a touch of the famous ‘Iron Dames pink’. The team’s first podium since Hamburg 2022.

A rail each for the Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses duo of Olivier Perreau and Malin Baryard-Johnson lifted the team to silver, and when John Whitaker’s Equine America Unique du Francport spun out in an uncharacteristic faux pas for Valkenswaard United, Cannes Stars secured their first stage win in the league since Madrid 2017!

The team that finished second-last on the 2023 table now stands as proud leaders in the current standings. With 3 clears recorded in Doha, they are nearly halfway to last year’s run, when the team only recorded 7 clears out of 58 rounds.

Can they do it again?

The victory at the first stage of the season is an enormous boost for the entire team, and they can surf on the positive wave and boosted confidence for the next stages. There is no doubt that the positivity will help, but the team will need to show pure quality if they want to stay in the leading group. With a critical assessment of the riders and their available 5* horses, it certainly does look positive.

There is enough rider talent available with three 5* Grand Prix winners in the ranks, and Kim Emmen, Sanne Thijssen, and Katrin Eckermann know the series, the format, and the particularities of the GCL. Natalie Dean has had half a season under the wings of Rob Hoekstra’s Paris Panthers last year, and Janne Frederieke Meyer Zimmerman was part of the 2017 all-female line-up of Shanghai Swans. Only Sophie Hinners is new to the ultimate team’s championship.

Every rider has at least one star horse like Acota M, Messi van’t Ruytershof, Con Quidam RB, Cala Mandia, Imagine, or Sinclair. Those horses are all supported by one or more equine athletes for each of their riders in support for Round 1 or Round 2 duties. Nespresso and Chance for Natalie Dean, Chao Lee for Katrin Eckermann, or Delveaux and Inflame Go for Kim Emmen, just to name a few.

As with every team, management, planning, and flexibility will be crucial, but under the proviso that horses and riders stay fit, they should be a team that can challenge for the Top 4 for the 2024 championship.

What’s next?

Team manager Stefano Nogara has selected Katrin Eckermann and Sanne Thijssen to join Natalie Dean on the other side of the ocean for the double at the Americas, Miami Beach and Mexico City. Miami Beach has a special place in the heart of Katrin Eckermann after her back-to-back Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix wins in 2022 and 2023. Just imagine that they would go out and do it again, but now in the GCL. 

Final tickets are now on sale to watch all the GCL action unfold on Friday 5 April, 2024.


Watch Now: Cannes Stars Powered By Iron Dames, Winners Interview Doha 2024

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Jan Tops - Founder & President