The 2022 championship race kicked off with a bang under the lights in the stunning Longines Arena at Al Shaqab. Brand new team Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses secured pole position going into the first super Saturday Showdown of the year.
An ecstatic Malin Bayard- Johnsson told GCTV: “We are super happy of course like you say it’s the first round for the team Stockholm hearts. We are super proud, super happy with the horses. We have 2 extremely good horses they try their hearts out for us. We have 5 teams clear today, Saturday is a new day and it’s going to be tough, there are a few teams looking very very strong.”
Giving some insight into their team tactics Olivier Philippaerts: First of all, we have to decide who is going to jump on Saturday, I think we will have a discussion further on and probably think it is going to be Malin and Peder but we will see how it goes, lucky to have a few different horses so hopefully we get 2 more clear rounds on Saturday.”
Key facts from the first GCL round of the year:
Reigning champions Valkenswaard United showcased their heavyweight lineup with Marcus Ehning and new signing showjumping hero John Whitaker. Riding super Stargold, Ehning was first to take on the challenge but an early fault at fence two immediately put United on the back foot before Whitaker and Unick du Francport also had the same fence down as they start the season with a score of 8 faults.
The course looked jumpable but the first clear round didn’t come until Harrie Smolders and Bingo du Parc sailed round for the Paris Panthers, leaving them on just the 4 faults that Gregory Wathelet picked up. Berlin Eagles regular pairing of Ludger Beerbaum on Mila and Christian Kukuk with Mumbi proved how consistency in teams can pay off as the pair finished as the fastest team on four faults.
U25 riders pulled out all the stops today as Michael Pender (St Tropez Pirates), Jack Whitaker (Madrid In Motion) and Mike Kawai (London Knights) all produced flawless clear rounds to help keep their teams in contention of claiming the first championship points of the year.
But it was new team Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses that proved why they are the best on paper with a spectacular double clear in a lightning-fast time to rocket them to the top of the leaderboard. The powerful pairing of Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Indiana alongside Olivier Philippaerts and H&M Legend of Love were a force to be reckoned with it in GCL R1.
Prague Lions thrived in the huge arena as new combination of Belgium boys Niels Bruynseels and Pieter Devos onboard Cristel and Claire Z also produced a faultless score to keep them in touch with a podium.
With eleven out of sixteen teams all just one fence apart Saturday’s competition is going to be tighter than ever. Tune in at 14.40 local time on GCTV to find out who will secure the crucial 2022 season points.