London Knights stamped their authority on the first leg of the 2020 GCL team series after a last minute drama crushed the hopes of closest rivals St Tropez Pirates.
Twin brothers Nicola and Olivier Philippaerts emerged triumphant in the opening GCL competition of the new season with an impressive clean scoresheet and an unbeatable time. Paris Panthers, featuring Gregory Wathelet and new signing Penelope Leprevost, were the only other team to produce a full set of clear rounds giving them a well-deserved second place.
Speaking just before the prize-giving ceremony under the soaring architecture of the Longines Al Shaqab Arena, Olivier Philippaerts said: “The pressure is on. We have won the last two years, but we started off with a win so that gives great motivation for the next few shows. The season is still very long but we choose our best horses for the events and we hope to do well again in the Super Cup, all the teams work towards it.”
Nicola Philippaerts said: “It’s really cool to win with my brother for the first time. We’re very happy, both horses jumped very well. It’s very nice to have a kick off here and win straight away in Doha.”
Berlin Eagles, also with a strong new signing in German rider Philipp Weishaupt, finished third on four faults.
After GCL Round One St Tropez Pirates were in pole position starting today. But star striker Pieter Devos dramatically put them out of contention when his mare Claire Z refused at the narrow white wall leaving new teammate Daniel Deusser to deliver a necessary clear round to keep them in the top tier finishers.
After a blistering GCL season last year, team owners and managers decided to field their heavyweights to try to gain maximum advantage at the first event of 2020. It was a clear sign of the intense motivation to get ahead in the early stages of the high adrenaline GCL team championship. Spectators, including hundreds of Qatari and international children watched their show jumping idols up close from the impressive grandstand and ringside cafes as the event continues to grow in popularity as a regular fixture on the Doha sporting calendar.
Jan Tops, Founder and President of LGCT and GCL, said: “The sport, everything, is just fantastic. It was a repeat from last year, London Knights won the overall very strongly last year and again we have the same team, great riders and they started off the season again with a amazing result. All four rounds were clear.”
Today’s results set the stage for the next legs of the GCL which will play out in the breathtaking destinations of Mexico City and Miami Beach. Record prize money of over €37 million is on offer in the 2020 LGCT and GCL season with over €10 million alone in one weekend for teams in the GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs in November.
Here is how the action unfolded in Doha:
First into the ring was Niels Bruynseels with Delux van T&L. The combination displayed fantastic precision and accuracy but rubbed the back rail of the final fence which luckily stayed in place for a clear round.
Teammate Wilm Vermier, riding IQ Van Het Steenje, took a steady approach in the first line, jumped well through the triple combination securing another clear round leaving the team on a score of 8 to finish.
Max Kuhner and Pius Schwizer both returned for the Swans with both riders opting to change horses for the crucial second round - Max now piloting Elektric Blue P and Pius now partnering Quatro Rubin. They kept up the pace but sadly rubbed a rail to bring his team total up to 8.
Pius Schwizer had it all to do if the Swans were to stay ahead of the Lions but they were outfoxed by the height at the combination, rolling a rail and dropping the team down the ranking.
Madrid in Motion
Madrid in Motion were next to tackle this tricky course. Eduardo Álvarez Aznar headed into the ring first for Madrid in Motion, switching his ride to Seringat. Adding a stride in the first line, Aznar had a touch at the GC vertical, but his luck ran out as a pole fell, and he finished on 4 faults.
Maikel van der Vleuten entered the ring on talented mare Dana Blue. The pressure was on, as the team needed a fast clear round to keep them ahead of Prague Lions. He was up on the time but got in deep to the triple with another 4 faults putting them on a total of 12.
Jane Richard Philips and Victorio des Grez suffered an early fault on this difficult track, and the poles continued to fall as Victorio des Grez got a little strong clocking up a total of 12 faults.
The pressure was also on for Hans-Dieter Dreher and Prinz to avoid more faults. With a good pace the combination jumped well through the treble and a perfect stride to the last combination resulted in a solid clear round. The team finished on a score of 16 faults, dropping them down the leaderboard.
New York Empire
Scott Brash had a great clear round in the first round of the GCL competition, but the team began the second round on a score of 4 faults, picked up by Denis Lynch. Using their third rider Shane Breen entered the ring with Z7 Ipswich and despite a strong touch at fence 4, they jumped carefully through both the treble and double, and finished on a clear round.
Scott Brash and Hello Senator picked up the mantle for New York Empire with a fresh horse and was looking close to a clear round only to come agonisingly unstuck when a rail fell in the final double and the team finished on a score of 8.
The Hamburg Giants kept the same line-up from the first round and brought forward only a single time fault. But it all unravelled Simon and Berlux Z suffered a shock refusal at the triple combination, as well as two fences down to end on an uncharacteristic score of 15.
Bart Bles knew he had an upward battle ahead of him and set off at a careful pace on Israel vd Dennehoeve. But his approach did not pay off, and with one fence down, plus time faults to pick up, the team finished on a score of 21 at the wrong end of the leaderboard.
Miami Celtics began as the first team to enter the arena on a clean scoresheet. Gilles Thomas, making his debut on the GCL circuit, managed his mount Calleryama well in this round as the mare was spooky around the track. It was an impressive debut in the GCL for Thomas securing a valuable clear round for the Celtics.
Maurice Tebbel entered next on Don Diarado but had just one fence down despite a deep approach to the tricky final double. They took the team to the top of the leaderboard at this stage, putting the pressure on those still to come.
Julien Épaillard set off with his foot to the floor on Virtuose Champeix. Taking a big swing over the vertical, he kept up the pace and couldn’t quite seem to regain his control clocking up 8 faults despite posting the quickest round so far.
Jérôme Guéry did his best to push the slower Quel Homme de Hus especially into the final line and his risk paid off, securing an important clear round leaving them on 8.
Berlin Eagles were another team to begin on a clean sheet and Marco Kutscher and Chaccorina took a forward approach in the triple and at the following related distance and it paid off despite a couple of strong touches. But his luck ran out in the final double as the penultimate fence fell.
Philipp Weishaupt riding 10-year-old Coby took some risks and after sailing over the liverpool, he took the inside lines in the final few fences, flying the final fence to finish on a clear. The Berlin Eagles soared into the lead at that stage but ultimately finished in third place on the podium.
Peder Fredricson piloted Catch Me Not S in this competitive second round. The pair took a huge jump over the GC Prague Playoffs fence, but Peder picked up the control again to ensure accuracy around the course. A clear round wasn’t to be and the final fence fell, adding 4 faults.
New signing Edwina Tops-Alexander was next to go on Identity Vitseroel, and despite a beautiful ride through the triple combination, the following oxer fell. The pair also had a sticky moment at the wall but the brick held and the team finished on 8 faults.
Paris Panthers came forward on a zero score fielding new team rider Pénélope Leprevost with GFE Excalibur de la Tour Vidal, and Gregory Wathelet with Indago. The pressure was on as a place in the top four was in reach and Leprevost pulled out all the stops to secure a fast clear round.
As Gregory Wathelet entered the arena, the audience were on the edge of their seats, and he brought home the goods sailing around the course to come home with the first team double clear of the night and ultimately helping the team to second place on the podium.
Brothers Olivier and Nicola Philippaerts were next in riding H&M Extra and Katanga v h Dingeshof. The Knights had to achieve a double clear to be in with a chance and they pulled it out of the bag. Olivier took tight lines and used all his experience to pilot H&M Extra to an incredible clear.
Tension was high but Nicola remained cool under pressure and steered Katanga to another strong fast clear catapulting them to the top of the leaderboard in emphatic style.
Evelina Tovek brought Dalila de la Pomme back to compete in this second round alongside team heavyweight Christian Ahlmann, partnering Dominator 2000 Z for this tough course. Today’s course proved testing and the fences tumbled for them to finish on a score of 12.
Ahlmann had it all to do, and despite his best efforts, taking a steady careful pace, he finished on 4 faults, taking the team total to 16 and dropping them out of contention.
St Tropez Pirates
All eyes were on the dynamic duo of Daniel Deusser and Pieter Devos. Devos brought his talented mare Claire Z to the competition, but unfortunately the pair had a shock run-out at the wall and with time penalties finished on 6 faults.
Deusser piloted Killer Queen masterfully using all of his skill to pull off the result they needed - a clear round. Despite finishing outside the podium placings, St Tropez Pirates finished the GCL of Doha in 5th place.
For full results, click here.