01 March 2024

Horsepower Accelerates Cannes Stars to Victory in GCL Doha Seizing Championship Lead

Horsepower Accelerates Cannes Stars to Victory in GCL Doha Seizing Championship Lead

The inaugural stage of the 2024 GCL season ignited the sands of Doha as the Cannes Stars, powered by Iron Dames, triumphed under the lights in the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab. This historic victory not only marks their dominance in the team series but makes history as the first all-female team of six riders to lead the championship race setting the stage for an exhilarating season ahead.

In a thrilling showdown, the Cannes Stars propelled to victory, led by the stellar performances of Sophie Hinners aboard Iron Dames Singclair, Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann with Messi van 't Ruytershof, and Sanne Thijssen riding Con Quidam RB. The squad's impeccable form led them to finish with just four faults after two rounds, clinching the win with a breathtakingly quick performance, two seconds ahead of their closest competitors, Mexico Amigos.

Team owner Deborah Mayer spoke of how proud she is to secure her first win: “As the founder of the Iron Dames project, I am incredibly proud and honored to see our team, Cannes Stars Powers by Iron Dames, clinch the first round of the 2024 GCL, the pinnacle of equestrianism. Being the first all-female team to compete in this prestigious championship makes this achievement even more moving and meaningful. This result is not just about winning; it's a celebration of the values that each Iron Dame embodies: passion, determination and excellence. I congratulate Janne, Sophie, Sanne and all the team on their success from the bottom of my heart. It's a truly emotional and historic moment for our project and for the equestrian sport as a whole."

An emotional Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann said : “I am lost for words. We are just so happy. It was great teamwork. We have a huge team around us. Also this weekend we have the race for the drivers so now we can also give our support to them.”

Sanne Thijssen smiled: “This weekend it’s the first time for us competing as a team together for the Cannes Stars powered by Iron Dames. The team is unbelievably motivated. We support each other and I think today we pushed each other to the limit and that’s how we got this result. I had a good feeling already yesterday with Con Quidam and today we gave it our all. I am looking forward to the following competitions together with the other Iron Dames.”

U25 rider Sophie Hinners told GCTV: “Last week was my horses first 5* show so I am thrilled and I am just really looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Founder and President of GCL Jan Tops said: “Tonight was very exciting until the last moment. For the new Cannes Stars team to come here and win straight away it is not easy so it’s very special in this arena. We saw with John Whitaker that in this sport it is so exciting until the last moment and the growth here in Doha each year is just fantastic.”

Mexico Amigos, fielded a formidable lineup of Mouda Zeyada on If Looks Could Kill O.H. delivering a flawless double clear across the two rounds, Nadja Peter Steiner with Jappeloup clear in round 2 kept them on just four faults from Mike Kawai riding Saxo de la Cour in round 1. However, it was the Cannes Stars' electrifying pace that secured their victory.

After looking for a double clear all last season Mouda Zeyada was delighted today: “I am relatively new to the league, last year being my first year was a learning curve, but the events sure improved my horse a lot, and now look where we are at. Nadja rode incredibly, also on a green horse, Mike also did a great job in the first round."

Last year's champions, Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian, showcased their resilience by clinching the final podium spot, with Christian Kukuk and Philipp Schulze Topphoff executing a strategic horse change between rounds to secure valuable points with a third place as the fastest team on 8 faults.

A reflective yet quietly pleased Christian Kukuk spoke of the nature of the sport of show jumping, he said: “The class is not done until the last rider crosses the finish line. Everything is possible and we knew that we were in a good position when we finished the first round. I had a bit of an unlucky fault, but still I was sure that if we jumped two clear rounds, we were going to be on the podium. What happened to John can happen to anyone.”

The drama intensified as the two final teams, Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses and Valkenswaard United, both on a clean sheet going into round 2, faced off in a high-stakes battle. With both teams vying for a podium finish, every jump was crucial. The pressure was on as they only had a rail in hand to Cannes Stars but a pole down from both Malin Baryard-Johnsson with H&M Indiana and Olivier Perreau riding Gl Events Dorai d'Aiguilly knocked them off the podium to finish in fourth.

In pole position leading after round 1, Valkenswaard United just needed to keep all the fences up, and a win in the first stage of the season was theirs. Marcus Ehning and Stargold delivered the goods with a fast clear. However, a nail-biting turn of events for show jumping legend John Whitaker and Equine America Unick du Francport. Anything can happen in show jumping, and Whitaker proved that today with Equine America Unick du Francport napping early on the course, costing him crucial time and collecting 21 faults overall, relinquishing their lead and ultimately handing the victory to the Cannes Stars.

Five teams concluded the competition with eight faults overall, underscoring the critical importance of timing in the fiercely competitive 1.60m speed class. The home team, Doha Falcons took home 6th place after a clear from Rashid Towaim Ali Al Marri and Concordess Nrw, but an unlucky pole in each round from Wilm Vermeir and Simon Delestre kept the home team off the podium. So the win was handed to the team in pink and the 2024 championship race officially begins…

As the equestrian world eagerly awaits the next showdown in Miami Beach from 3 - 6 April 2024, the Cannes Stars stand poised to continue their reign atop the GCL.

My vision is clear. Only the best for the best.
Jan Tops - Founder & President