Paris Panthers kickstarted their overall ranking comeback with a phenomenal double clear from Nayel Nassar and Darragh Kenny in an edge of the seat first round of the GCL competition in Monaco, In a formidable display both Kenny and Nassar pulled out all the stops to deliver two flawless clear rounds to be the only team to keep a zero score today. Home team Monaco Aces were hot on the Panthers’ heels in second with London Knights securing third.
Paris Panthers will start with a serious advantage in Saturday’s GCL Round 2 as the last team to go. Speaking about Saturday’s challenge Nayel said: “Usually our team manager Rob doesn’t like us to take too much risk, we went at the end of the round as well so we knew exactly what we needed to do. There were no double clears yet so we just figured we shouldn’t take any unnecessary risk and put ourselves in a good position for Saturday.
“I thought when we walked the course today it was already pretty bulky for the first day of a GCL but our horses really responded great and I felt like we put in two solid rounds - it’s good to start the week off like this”
Talking about the triple combination that caught out many of the riders Darragh added : “I think the line was a bit flat in the five to the big oxer going in and then really short the two big verticals. I think you just needed a really good horse today.”
The unique Monaco event is nestled next to the super-yachts in Port d’`Hercule and where the pitlane of the Formula 1 races are held, with the venue oozing sporting history and prowess. The compact arena offered up a flowing but technical course set by Uliano Vezzani who placed combinations up the long side as well as featuring a huge final plank vertical to finish.
Drawn first the home team were looking to put the pressure on the rest of the field. Making it look easy Julien Epaillard & Billabong du Roumois took a dramatic inside turn to cut crucial seconds off the time and flew home with a spotless clear. Following a great set up from his teammate, Jos Verlooy took to the course with the talented Jacobien Dwerse Hagen. The combination had the first part of the triple combination down putting the Aces on 4 faults, but in a super speedy time of 122.51 seconds.
It was a slightly slower pace for Sergio Alvarez Moya and Alamo but this tactic paid off and they secured an early clear for the Lions. Unfortunately it fell apart for Jur Vrieling and Fiumicino van de Kalevallei who added 12 faults to the scoreboard to finish in the latter part of the order today.
Current ranking leaders Valkenswaard United brought out the big guns of Edwina Tops-Alexander and Alberto Zorzi. Riding Identity Vitseroel, Edwina looked set for a clear until she had two light touches at the end of the course and their total was immediately upped to 8 faults. Zorzi opted to ride Clarina for this round of action, but yet again the triple combination fell bringing their team total up to 12 faults and leaving them with lots of work to do on Saturday.
The all female team of Berlin Eagles were on the back foot from the start as the first fence fell for Jane Richard Philips and Fouego de la Closiere. The combination then put in a great round to stay on the 4 faults and hand over the pressure to young gun Laura Klaphake and Quin. The pair jumped perfectly and kept the Eagles in the fight to finish as the slowest of the four faults in fourth place.
It was the bogey fence of the triple combination across the arena that caught out Teddy Vlock this time on Conner. They also added two expensive time faults to the score meaning the 2019 champions of GCL Monaco had a lot of work to do. With everything to prove young talent James Wilson was second to go on the gutsy L'amour. They kept a cool and flowing rhythm, but were unlucky as one pole fell and the Vikings had to settle for a team score of 10 faults.
Madrid In Motion
Eric van der Vleuten rode his experienced mount Wunschkind. They lost a little control to the combination and the back rail fell immediately adding four faults to their score. Eduardo Alvarez Aznar took up the mantle with Legend but it all came undone and they picked up 12 faults in a speedy time, but will take a total of 16 faults into round two.
After their incredible start to the season Shanghai Swans were looking to get back on track but it was an early four for Max Kühner and Eic Coriolis des Isles as fence three tumbled down. The pair came home on 8 and left a lot of work for Christian Ahlmann. Opting for the big striding Mandato van de Neerheide it would just be an unlucky one down for the German rider to keep the Swans inside the top 10 on 12 faults.
St Tropez Pirates
Fresh from their win last weekend in Paris the St Tropez Pirates looked keen and fielded U25 rider Michael Pender and HHS Burnchurch and the experienced Pieter Devos on Jade vd Bisschop. Both teammates just had one pole down to put them in a solid position for GCL Round 2 as the fastest on 8 faults and in 5th place.
Mike Kawai also took the inside turn at the start of the course but just got a little too keen into the triple combination on As de Mai to finish in a decent time but with 4 faults on the scoreboard. Handing the reins over to Titouan Schumacher and Atome Z who suited the tight Monaco arena, unfortunately they had an unlucky pole to bring the team total up to 8 faults going into Saturday’s showdown.
Choosing the inside 5 strides to the tall Monaco coloured red and white upright proved costly for Martin Fuchs and Tam Tam du Valon as it came crashing down putting them on the backfoot. Olivier Philippaerts brought out the well known H&M Legend of Love for today's dramatic competition. Luck was on their side as the final plank bounced up and down in the cups but it stayed up and they were clear to keep the Knights in contention on just 4 faults.
There was heartache for the Hamburg Giants when it fell apart for Zoe Osterhoff on Ferrari VDL from the first fence. They tried to take a stride out to the second and crashed through the GC Prague Playoffs vertical before coming home on 13 faults. Teammate Rodrigo Giesteira Almeida also had a difficult round on Carado as they brought the team total up to 30 faults finishing just above the Cascais Charms.
Riding together again the power pair of Agustin Covarrubias and Sameh El Dahan started round 1 for the Cannes Stars. Today wasn’t their day and the tricky arena caught them out once again to bring home 13 and 12 faults respectively on Teavanta II C Z and Suma's Zorro. The Stars have a lot of work to do if they want to shine on Saturday and redeem themselves from today’s 25 faults.
New York Empire
Monaco welcomed the dynamic duo of Spencer Smith and Scott Brash as they entered the arena to their punchy team music. Smith settled into a strong rhythm during the first part on Theodore Manciais but it would be two down as he crossed through the finish timers. Brash had lots of work to do with Hello Mr President. The gelding jumped incredibly under the floodlight arena. Looking set to bring home a clear he was just caught off guard towards the end of the course and brought the team total up to 12 faults.
Riding the stunning black stallion Arena Uk Winston, Ellen Whitaker set off with a plan. Keeping tight around the corners and looking for the next fence early they also knocked the Monaco upright. The pair handed over the reins to Johnny Pals with 8 faults already on the score board. Johnny would bring out his top mount Fernando but there was disaster as the pair struggled in the tight arena and had to add 16 faults to the team total.
It was a difficult day for the Cascais Charms after both Rene Lopez Lizarazo riding Stalognia and Ahmad Saber Hamcho on Deville had to stop mid round due to the safety cups on the fences needing changing. The team were off form today and picked up a large total of 32 faults to finish bottom of the order.
The final team to go to the Paris Panthers would field two star strikers Nayel Nassar and Darragh Kenny. First up was Nassar on Igor van de Wittemoere and they took it all in their stride. Playing a risky game and going for the steady clear they had to keep all the fences up and they did before handing the spotlight to Darragh on Idalville d'Esprit. With spectators on the edge of their seats, it was silent around the arena until Kenny flew over the final fence to produce the all important clear and secure pole position.