London Knights have secured their first pole position of the season after Ben Maher with Ginger Blue and Olivier Philippaerts with H&M Extra delivered a flawless and fast double clear at GCL R1 of Stockholm presented by Agria.
On the first day of competition in the Olympic Stadium in the Swedish capital, London Knights have propelled themselves to the lead after today’s result with the riders keen for redemption after a slow start to the season.
Team manager and rider Ben Maher said: "It feels great, this is the first time this year we have had a start like this and we as a team need to start picking it up like we did two years ago. Olivier gave us a great start today and I was really happy with Ginger Blue.
"We have been better on the second day over the last few shows and at least tomorrow we are in it. I would be disappointed if we can’t at least stay on the podium tomorrow, it has been a great start and hopefully, we can have more of the same."
Ranking leaders Valkenswaard United are breathing down the necks of London Knights, with home hero Peder Fredricson on H&M All In and Edwina Tops-Alexander with Fellow Castlefield also on 0 faults just over two seconds slower heading into Saturday’s showdown. The final team on a double clear are Paris Panthers in prime position for another podium this season after Gregory Wathelet and Nayel Nassar took the third spot today keeping them at the sharp end of the grid.
Commenting on Uliano Vezzani’s twisty course day Maher said: "I am always biased to Uliano, I have had great success over his courses. There is a small slope on this arena which you probably can’t see on the livestream but it makes a difference. The course was a little more twisty than other venues recently, but it was a great course and very careful jumping."
Madrid In Motion
First rider in the ring Maikel van der Vleuten piloted Kamara van’t Heike for the first round in Stockholm. They had an unusual 8 faults with the vertical coming out of the double and the last fence both falling today. There was drama when Mark McAuley and Jasco vd Bisschop had a refusal at the liverpool and it fell down on the second approach but rode quick enough not to pick up any time faults.
After their win last time out in Valkenswaard, Monaco Aces opted to field two different riders for this round of action. They played Jérôme Guery and Great Britain V as their first to go but it was an early four faults as the Stockholm plank came tumbling down. Billy Twomey stepped up and pulled out the first clear of the day with Chat Botte E.D to help the Aces finish on just 4 faults in 137.92 seconds.
Home city team fielded their two Scandinavian riders for the first round of action in Sweden. First up was young Swede Evelina Tovek with the eye-catching dark horse, Winnetou de la Hamente Z. Unfortunately, it all fell apart as three fences fell in a row quickly picking up 12 faults and putting the pressure on teammate Geir Gulliksen. It was 8 faults for the team manager and VDL Groep Quatro as he got too deep to the birch double causing the Vikings to pick up a surprising 20 faults in total.
St Tropez Pirates
Wearing the world number one armband Daniel Deusser took his time and guided Casallvano to give the team exactly what they needed with a clear round. Dani G. Waldman made her debut appearance on the team this year, but a fairly late eight faults with Queensland E put the Pirates out of contention and down the scoreboard.
First time jumping in the GCL this year H&M Extra showed his pure class and Olivier Philippaerts produced a foot-perfect clear on the expressive stallion. It was then all down to Ben Maher and the fairly new ride of Ginger Blue. They didn’t disappoint and came home to be the first team to finish on a double clear in a time of 134.18seconds.
Looking to build on their success at the last leg, Bassem Mohammed and Gunder set off with determination, but it wasn’t meant to be as the experienced pair handed 12 faults over to teammate Philip Houston and Sandros S Bella. Young gun Houston had an unlucky 4 faults bringing the total up to a costly 16 faults going into tomorrow’s showdown.
It was all to play for as Jur Vrieling and Fiumicino van de Kalevallei entered the arena. The combination showed grit and determination to finish clear - keeping the team in with a chance tomorrow. Young talent Anna Kellnerova brought a new face to the circuit with Silverstone G, one down but a fast time meant the Lions are in fourth overnight with just 4 faults on the board.
Pius Schwizer and WH Delilah were first to go for the Shanghai Swans, watched on by teammate Margie Goldstein-Engle. They rocketed around the arena, the fiery mare enthusiastic to the fences, listening carefully to her rider, but it was a costly 8 faults putting them on the back foot. Knowing only a clear would do to keep the team in touch ahead of Saturday’s competition Margie kept a cool head, but Dicas had the lightest of touches and the team finished with 12 faults.
German maestro Ludger Beerbaum and the stunning grey Mila looked in perfect harmony until the joker fence of the full up double, positioned tactfully down the hill, fell.The combination handed over to teammate and stablemate Philipp Weishaupt who made the same mistake on Coby bringing their total up to 8 faults 131.87seconds.
There were cheers as Peder Fredricson entered the arena on the talented H&M All In. The Swedish star delivered once again - absolutely smashing the time allowed with a speedy clear. Also wearing the scarlet GCL ranking leader armband Edwina Tops-Alexander powered around the arena on Fellow Castlefield to claim the second double clear of the class and put them in a great place for the starting grid tomorrow.
Bart Bles selected to ride one of his top horses Kriskras DV but he was also caught out by the twisty track putting the team on a score of four. Zoe Osterhoff then added to the total as it didn’t go to plan on Ferrari VDL, the Giants finishing with 16 faults overall and well down the order.
New to the Cannes Stars this season Sven Schlüsselburg kept his rhythm the whole way round on Bud Spencer putting in a solid performance to just pick up four faults. U25 rider Max Wachman piloted the 12 year old bay gelding Lazzaro Delle Schiave around the arena to match his teammates' score causing them to finish the slowest team on 8 faults overall.
It all came undone for the Miami Celtics as Johnny Pals and Cukuta picked up 12 faults for the team during the round, before Jorge Matte Capdevila added another 20 faults with Destiny van Schore and they finished with a huge total of 32 faults.
New York Empire
There was disappointment for Spencer Smith and Quibelle as they picked up 8 faults before handing the reins over to his Irish teammate. Denis Lynch then piloted the 15 year old bay stallion GC Chopin’s Bushi carefully around the course, taking a perfect shot at the final fence and delivering a clear round for the team keeping them on 8 faults.
Watched by team coach Rob Hoekstra, the pressure was on for the Panthers to deliver. The pair didn’t disappoint taking the challenges in their stride to both produce flawless rounds, but it was the slowest double clear of the day so they had to settle for third place and 12 seconds behind the London Knights.
Last to go the Cascais Charms fielded Carlos Lopez with G&C Arrayan. Despite this being the first time the horse had jumped in the arena, they pulled out all the stops to produce a spectacular clear, putting the team in a strong position. But U25 rider Jodie Hall McAteer had an unlucky two fences down leaving the Charms with 8 faults going into Super Saturday.