The unbelievable drama! The final line-up for the GCL Super Cup presented by Air Bank has been decided in what was a high-adrenaline display of world-class show jumping on day two of the GC Prague Playoffs in the knockout Semi-Final.
Sunday’s €4.5million GCL Super Cup Final is set to be a sell-out crowd as emotions run high with favourites Stockholm Hearts and Paris Panthers knocked out and home team Prague Lions securing their place for the first time.
2022 season champions Berlin Eagles only just made it into the Final by less than half a second over 3 riders. Philipp Whiesuapt made a bold statement to GCTV: “We take GCL very seriously. The team classes stand above everything, we have the strongest three riders and horses for Sunday. Sunday is what we have been aiming for the whole year for. We have taken it very seriously this season, and we’re going to finish it with the best three horses we have on Sunday even if that means someone doesn’t jump tomorrow or second horses are used. The plan was not to make it that exciting and tight. I was praying at every fence. I heard people telling me in the crowd to go so I knew if I went there was a chance.”
Presented in the awe-inspiring ‘Walk of Champions’ the riders competing in today’s Semi Final were greeted by the roar of the crowd, a telling sign of what was to come in a night full of breathtaking sport, heroic highs and devastating blows.
The introduction of the four highest placed GCL teams from the 2022 season to come up against the eight teams who survived the Quarter Final knockout round on day 1, the competition was fierce with horses, riders, owners and team managers vying for a coveted spot in Sunday’s ultimate final showdown.
With just 6 of the original 16 teams earning their place in Sunday’s GCL Super Cup, apprehension is high with the Prague Lions, Valkenswaard United, Madrid in Motion, Miami Celtics, Shanghai Swans and Berlin Eagles set to return to Prague’s O2 arena one last time for 2022.
A big, technical track built by course designer Uliano Vezzani proved the ultimate test for the Paris Panthers, Hamburg Giants, Rome Gladiators, Istanbul Sultans, St Tropez Pirates and the Stockholm Hearts who all failed to earn their spot on the starting grid this Sunday.
With huge prize money at stake, it was a night where the slightest error from riders and horses around the difficult course in the indoor sand arena was critical. It was a shock exit for IstanbuSultansts after their strong start finishing bottom of the leader baord.
With cheers that could have lifted the roof, Marcus Ehning aboard his Priam du Roset and Andre Thieme aboard DSP Chakaria made easy work of the tough course by producing the first two clears of the night for their team Valkenswaard United – ultimately proving to the remainder of the field the course was technical yet very jumpable. With just four faults added by teammate John Whitaker, Valkenswaard United finished with the lowest score and secured their appearance in Sunday’s GCL Super Cup Final presented by Air Bank.
Crowd favourites the Prague Lions, thrilled the full house by securing their spot on the start list. With a single rail falling for home grown hero Anna Kellernova and teammate Pieter Devos, coupled with an unlucky two rails for Neils Bruynseels leaving the team on 16 faults, they qualified as the fifth-place team heading into the final showdown.
Less than half a second separated the 6th place and final team to qualify, the Berlin Eagles, and the Paris Panthers who ultimately failed to qualify. A disappointed Harrie Smolders commented on his team’s result: “We are disappointed, it was a close call with Berlin and excitement to the last jump. But we knew when we came out our result was not good enough, the level is incredibly high, and you need to put your best horses here. Definitely we come back next year stronger and back on the podium.”
It was a night of unprecedented high drama as six teams faced down extraordinary pressure in the cliffhanger GCL Semi-Finals. Tension was high as the first team entered the ring with pressure showing on the faces of even the most experienced riders in the world today.
First-ever GCL Super Cup winners in 2018, Madrid in Motion were the only team with 8 faults overall to take their position in Sunday’s starting gird. It was two effortless clear rounds from Angleica Augustsson Zanotelli and Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and an unlucky two down for young talent Jack Whitaker. Redeeming themselves after a tricky season Miami Celtics took third place today to start midfield on Sunday as the fastest team to finish on 12 faults.
With some of the strongest horsepower on paper and 2019 GCL Super Cup winners Shanghai Swans picked up 12 faults between Dominator 2000 Z and Leone Jei with Christian Ahlmann and Martin Fuchs. A solid clear form Max Kuhner and Elektric Blue P kept them in the game to fight another day.
Tomorrow’s Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix and Sunday’s GCL Super Cup Final are set to play out in front of full grandstands with today’s results proving that edge of your seat spectating is guaranteed. Show jumping fans around the world can watch live on GCTV with expert commentary and analysis, innovative new graphics and featuring rider interviews throughout the coverage.