Show jumping legends John Whitaker and Marcus Ehning showed their true class in a knife-edge GCL Hamburg, after today's first-round saw 4 teams finish on a clean sheet and five teams just a rail behind.
With time a significant factor in today’s prelude to Saturday’s showdown, Valkenswaard United claimed their first pole position of the season with a double clear, just ahead of New York Empire’s U25 squad of Jodie Hall Mcateer and Harry Charles and Berlin Eagles’ Ludger Beerbaum and Philipp Weishaupt.
There is a potential shakeup in the overall rankings and an interesting battle between Prague Lions and Madrid In Motion for a place in the top 4 so with every place receiving points, the final order in Saturday’s showdown will be crucial.
Commenting about riding with the one and only John Whitaker as a teammate, Marcus Ehning smiled: “It’s amazing to ride as one team with the legend of John Whitaker, the pressure was high but I think both of us did a great job today. I had a very good feeling with Stargold and John made it a bit interesting to the last as he lost his rein but experience helps.
John Whitaker then added: “Marcus gave me inspiration with his brilliant round and like Marcus said it was a bit scary to the last when I lost my rein but anyway we survived. Jumping here in Hamburg is special, there is a lot of tradition in this fantastic place.”
The 16 GCL teams tackled course designer Frank Rothenberger’s track over Hamburg’s Derby field turf, and with plenty of riders going clear it looked jumpable. Rothenberger used the full scope of the huge arena, mixing long distances between fences with holding strides, meaning total control and one eye on the clock would be the order of the day.
Back from injury and first into the arena Jack Whitaker set the crowd alight as the first clear of the day on Equine America Valmy de la Lande for Madrid In Motion. Handing the reins over to Mark McAuley it was a late fault that put the team on four even though Cap West was jumping out of his skin.
Rome Gladiators produced the first double clear of the day after flawless performances from Shane Breen riding 9 year old Vistogrand and ‘FMS’ Fernando Martinez Sommer with Cor Bakker. The team opted for slow and steady clears leaving room for other teams to still overtake.
In direct battle for the Championship lead, Hamburg Giants needed a good start to the weekend if they wanted to overtake Berlin Eagles. It was a single rail down but three costly time faults from Suus Kuyten and King Kong d'Avifauna immediately put them on the back foot. But continuing her form Linda Heed once again delivered a clear with 12 year old Decurio to help them stay on 7 faults.
Fielding the youngest team of the day New York Empire’s two U25 riders both showed everyone how it was done. Two super-clear rounds from Jodie Hall Mcateer on Kimosa van het Kritrahof and Harry Charles with Casquo Blue powered them into second place just behind Valkenswaard United’s rapid time.
After missing the last stage, Berlin Eagles’ team anchor Ludger Beerbaum secured yet another clear for the league leaders with the immensely talented mare Mila. His team-mate Philipp Weishaupt, who is from the same stable, followed his mentor's impressive clear on the super speedy Coby, giving the Berlin Eagles a chance to extend their lead.
Shanghai Swans fielded one of the strongest line-ups of the day and their winning combination of Max Kuhner and Christian Ahlmann but it all fell apart and the team finished with a very unexpected 14 faults and at the bottom of the order.
Last to go were 2018 & 2019 GCL Hamburg winners St Tropez Pirates but one down from both Michael Pender on HHS Calais and Daniel Deusser with Killer Queen meant they are out of contention.
Team tactics will be crucial going into Saturday’s final, with teams having to decide which riders on their roster to put forward for the GCL Hamburg final. With the faults so close, and 9 teams within a pole of each other, the action promises to be an intense showcase of top sport, which will come right down to the wire.
The GCL Hamburg final will kick off on Saturday 12th May at 11:30 local time, with all the action streamed live via GCTV around the world.