It was an evening full of high drama in the nail-biting GCL Super Cup Quarter Final at the GC Prague Playoffs that saw St Tropez Pirates sail into the top spot.
Eight teams survived the dramatic knockout competition to take their place in tomorrow’s semi-final as Cannes Stars, Scandinavian Vikings, Monaco Aces and Cascais Charms week was cut short.
Marcus Ehning described the Quarter Final as: "A very exciting class, many teams who started well then had a real fall out. You could really see the pressure get to the riders."
St Tropez Pirates team anchor Daniel Deusser explained: "We have good horses and good riders in our team, it was an exciting class and for four teams the weekend is already finished. We are only one day further but we have shown we are in great shape and we are looking forward to tomorrow. Everything starts on 0 again and with no drop score it is really exciting right to the last team and anything can happen tomorrow."
The stadium erupted when the home team Prague Lions earned their spot in the Semi-Final after a rollercoaster ride from their three teammates. With the 2021 GCL championship’s four top-ranked teams fast-tracking their way straight to the semi-final, today’s Quarter Final was a tricky mission for 8 out of the 12 teams to claim their place in the next round.
In a dazzling Opening Ceremony, all the contenders for the GCL Super Cup entered the arena to a glittering light display, powerful music and an electric atmosphere and set the scene for a phenomenal four days of top sport and entertainment.
Uliano Vezzani’s course was an intense first test for the GCL Super Cup as faults were made all over causing plenty of drama. Every stride and turn was being scrutinised by riders, team owners, managers, trainers, groom and fans as the ultimate battle commenced.
Jumping in reverse order of their season standings, it was Cannes Stars who would kick start the sporting action in the GCL Super Cup Quarter finals and they received a warm welcome from the spectators. You could see the disappointment on Abdel Said’s face when he crossed the finish line with a total of 4 faults after the GC Prague Playoffs plank fell. U25 rider Max Wachman and fairly new ride Berlux Z had one unlucky roll on the Czech Equestrian oxer as well as two-time faults while it was a costly two early poles for the last member of the team to go Sameh el Dahan and Wicked Enigma. Leaving the team on 19 faults and just missing out on qualification.
The faults added up too for the next team, Cascais Charms before a confident-looking trio from the Miami Celtics leapt to the top of the leaderboard courtesy of a clear from Maurice Tebbel and the 12 year old stallion Don Diarado. Johnny Pals and Fernado had an unlucky one down while U25 rider Andrzej Oplatek came home to bring the team total up to 12 faults.
A speedy trio of riders came forward for the Hamburg Giants but accumulated 13 points, leaving them with an anxious wait as to whether they’d finish in the drop zone. Tension was ferocious as the competition unfolded.
Madrid In Motion then came out all guns blazing, posting a score of four and securing their place in the semi-final. New York Empire who have never made it out of the Quarter Finals before posted a respectable 5 faults leaving them in second place at the halfway point in the enthralling competition.
Team manager Geir Gulliksen sighed with disbelief as Evelina Tovek came home on 16 faults as the first out of the gate, knocking their chances of qualification. Gulliksen explained: "It is terrible, yesterday Evelina got a prize for the best results during the whole season, she has been so consistent and never had a round like this. Henrik and Frank were good, but the round from Evelina was so unfortunate. On paper, she is the best in the whole league and then this happened. It’s showing jumping and sometimes it goes wrong and today went very wrong, unfortunately, this is the sport, I feel sorry for Evelina."
Pulling out the big guns, St Tropez Pirates produced two flawless clears from Micheal Pender on HHS Calais and Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM. Oliver Robert picked up a time fault and had one down leaving the team with 5 faults and crucially finishing 0.03 seconds faster than Madrid In Motion to take the lead.
Home team Prague Lions picked up the final spot in the Semi-Finals after two very strong rounds from Jur Vierling and Niels Bruynseels but an unfortunate 13 faults from Anna Kellnerova put them in the risky territory until the last rider. Bruynseels smiled: "We are really happy we made it to the semi-final. It is amazing to come here especially with the home crowd it is an incredible feeling. There was some pressure today, I knew I had to jump clear."
Sadly, those leaving the tournament at this stage were Cannes Stars, who had been sitting on the edge in nail-biting agony and finally faced the disappointment of missing out, along with Scandinavian Vikings, Monaco Aces and Cascais Charms.
The season’s top four teams from the GCL championship, Valkenswaard United, Shanghai Swans, Paris Panthers and London Knights are back in the mix for tomorrow’s semi-final and with each of the 12 teams starting back on a zero score and the opportunity for horse and rider substitutions ahead of the penultimate decider, tactics, strategy and clear focus will be in order as teams battle for a place in Sunday’s final.