Paris Panthers achieved their second GCL win in a row today in a knife-edge battle in Berlin where the last team to go Monaco Aces dramatically lost their lead.
The Panthers heavyweight pairing of Nayel Nassar and Darragh Kenny kept cool under pressure for a back to back victory, maximising the team’s chance to fast-track to the GCL Super Cup semi-final at the GC Prague Playoffs in November.
It was the first event since the GCL mid-season transfer window with new rider signings and fresh horsepower as the championship battle intensifies.
Speaking about his talented grey gelding Nassar explained: “It is only our third show together and he tries his heart out every time. I am so lucky and blessed to be riding him right now. This is always a cool show. It is a very unique venue and the crowd is always enthusiastic. The warm-up is far away so it is a big build-up walking down to the ring and that's a really cool feeling as a rider to be here.”
After lots of double clears yesterday Kenny spoke about the course: “I thought he [Frank Rothenberger] was going to try and make it a lot harder today which he succeeded in and it became a very tough class.”
In a heart-wrenching turn of events, Jerome Guery, the final rider for the Monaco Aces, saw three fences fall costing them the win, falling right off the podium. It was the home city team Berlin Eagles of Laura Klaphake and Ludger Beerbaum who took second much to the crowd's delight while the Shanghai Swans clinched the final place on the podium with teammates Lucas Porter and Max Kühner.
The overall GCL Championship leaders Valkenswaard United keep the lead on 188 points despite finishing in 5th place today. The next teams are tantalisingly close with Shanghai Swans are on 150 points and both Paris Panthers and Monaco Aces joint third on 147 points.
Frank Rothenberger put together a tough track to test the teams, full of 1.55m tall verticals and wide oxers which required power and precision in perfect harmony around the unusually shaped oval arena. Fans lined the grassy banks with the atmosphere electric in the natural amphitheatre as they cheered on the team riders - the sunshine and warm temperatures providing the perfect backdrop to a day of top sport. The horses were fresh, with air-conditioned stables and a cool indoor warm-up arena allowing them to perform at their absolute best.
Cascais Charms were on the back foot going into today's showdown. Bringing Roger Yves Bost and Sangria du Coty off the bench to make his first performance since the mid-season transfers. It was touch and go throughout as the pair finished with one down and a time fault. Teammate Rene Lopez Lizarazo and Kheros van't Hoogeinde cruised round the oval arena with power and pace until it was heartbreak as the last fence fell and brought the team up to a total of 30 faults.
The first clear of the day came from U25 rider Andrzej Oplatek and Stakkatan. They looked confident from the start and secured a clear, fulfilling his goal and keeping the team on their overnight score. But it all then fell apart for Jorge Matte Capdevila and Dublin van Overis as poles fell all over the course to pick up 13 faults and the team finished on a score of 26 faults and just outside the top 10.
Madrid In Motion
Madrid In Motion started the competition with 9 faults hanging over them from the first round. Michael G Duffy and Lapuccino 2 added a stride to the triple which caused the grey to push out the front rail on the middle element for 4 faults. With team manager Eric van der Vleuten giving Mark McAuley some last-minute advice from the kiss and cry, he set off on a mission with Cap West. He had the exact same fence down to bring the total up to 18 faults.
Winners in Berlin last time the team competition was here, it was a gut-wrenching single time fault for team anchor of the Hamburg Giants Bart Bles and Fernando- H as he tackled the jumping elements with ease. Unfortunately, Suus Kuyten couldn’t continue this form knocking poles to make the team tally 36 faults and putting them down to the bottom end of the leaderboard.
St Tropez Pirates
Young gun Michael Pender opted for the huge striding HHS Burnchurch to take on the testing track. He took a risk doing 6 strides into a short related distance and the Longines plank fell adding 4 faults to the score. The drama continued when Pieter Devos riding Apart, was caught out by the gelding as he slammed the brakes on in the triple combination. After two refusals it was an elimination for the team and their weekend came to an abrupt halt.
The Cannes Stars squad both switched horses for round 2. The team tactics didn’t pay off as both combinations of Agustin Covarrubias riding d. Loca Della Marca v. and Sameh El Dahan on Suma's Zorro finished with 17 and 12 faults respectively to bring the team total up to 37 faults.
On form Evelina Tovek and Winnetou de la Hamente Z looked strong from the off and powered around the track looking good for a crucial clear until she got long to the last fence and it came crashing down along with their chances of moving up the order. Riding new horse to the GCL circuit Fair Field, Frank Schuttert had to go clear to keep the Vikings in with a chance of some important ranking points but part two of the triple combination fell and they had to settle for 9th place with 17 faults.
Sergio Alvarez Moya was pushing from the word go came out of sync with Alamo at the Longines plank knocking it down but still finishing in a rapid time. Jur Vrieling and Fiumicino van de Kalevallei were the first of the day to have the Idde Caffe oxer down keeping the team on 12 faults and good enough for 6th place.
One of the strongest teams in previous years the London Knights are struggling to find form this season. After a stunning performance yesterday in his debut for the team, the pressure got to Douglas Lindelöw and Casquo Blue as they had two big faults putting the Knights on the backfoot. Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga v.H Dingeshof put in a lively round and produced a superb clear for the Knights to finish with 12 faults and in 7th place.
Sitting on just a single time fault overnight it was all to play for for the Doha Falcons. Up first Titouan Schumacher and Atome Z but after a second refusal in the triple combination the team were eliminated before Bassem Mohammed could even jump.
The home city team had the luxury of starting with a clean sheet and applause rippled around the arena as they entered. Laura Klaphake and Quin were the second pair to hit the wing of Idee Cafe oxer coming out of the tight corner but it stayed up and it was the final fence that fell leaving her on 5 faults including a time penalty. Ludger Beerbaum was under pressure to be clear and fast. Making a horse change on to Mila he did just that producing a masterful, perfectly pitched clear round for a total score of 5 faults slotting into third place overall.
The ranking leaders brought out the big guns once again. Unfortunately it was a disappointing round for Edwina Tops-Alexander and Fellow Castlefield as they got a fraction too deep to the Longines plank producing a costly 8 faults. But it was yet another clear round from Alberto Zorzi and Cinsey who have only produced clears this year on the team. They stopped the clock in 142.55 seconds the slowest team on 8 faults and settling for 5th place overall.
With the team in the top tier of the overall ranking they were taking no chances and decided on a tactical horse change for Max Kühner. Lucas Porter and Hope Street went first making their debut on the team this year and had a few lucky breaks before two fences fell for a total of 8. Max Kühner switched horses to Up Too Jacco Blue and accelerated to the last knowing the time was crucial. They finished the fastest team on 8 faults and claimed third place on the podium.
New York Empire
U25 rider Spencer Smith piloted Theodore Manciais to an impressive clear round and were one of only a few combinations to deliver a double clear in the GCL Berlin. But there was frustration for the team as they couldn’t deliver on the second day once again. Denis Lynch and GC Chopin's Bushi had two down dropping them off the podium, but his fast time secured them fourth place overall and the all important ranking points.
Fresh from their spectacular win in Monaco the Paris Panthers fielded the same power pairing of Nayel Nassar and Darragh Kenny to take on the challenge today. Looking for back to back wins Nassar cruised Coronado over the fences with ease securing yet another clear round. Darragh Kenny was unlucky after looking like he was also going to go clear a single pole fell and the team finished with just four faults after two rounds that claimed them top spot.
It was all to play for and Monaco Aces just had to hold on to their precious zero score from R1. With Paris Panthers watching anxiously from the side of the arena, it was Julien Epaillard and Solero MS who put the pressure on as he finished with four faults. Jérôme Guery and Great Britain V had to jump clear to claim the win, but it wasn’t their day and a total of 12 faults dropped them right down the order and handed the win to the Panthers.
The GCL action shifts to London after the Olympic break at the stunning venue of Royal Hospital Chelsea for the 9th leg of the team series as the action packed race to the Finals and the Playoffs revs up.