Temperatures soared in France’s capital city as home team Paris Panthers shone under immense pressure to take their first win of the season, GCL Paris presented by La Ville de Paris. Ben Maher and Darragh Kenny kept it exciting right up to the last fence as they snatched the win ahead of the Miami Celtics pairing Jessica Springsteen and Edouard Schmitz.
With all eyes on the overall season championship race, where the top 4 teams fast track their way through to the GCL Super Cup Semi-Final, the Panthers’ win today has boosted the team’s chances after a slow start to the season. Maher explained: “We are going to keep pushing to climb as much as possible. We keep trying every week - a lot of people are surprised we haven’t been winning a bit more but we are trying our best every week but maybe this is just the result we needed to change our luck a bit and progress on during the rest of the season.”
Teammate Darragh Kenny spoke of the most unique setting to host a show jumping event: “It is a fantastic location and it’s even better to win at home with the Paris Panthers so it was a brilliant result today.”
With clear intent and full focus on the GCL, team anchor Ben Maher said: “This win was a long time coming, we have had a tough year, the Paris Panthers have been jumping a lot of good rounds but just not quite good enough - but finally here we did it, maybe the home crowd helped us. It was a tough competition!”
Jan Tops, President and Founder of GCL said: “This weekend showed real turbulence. There is a lot of pressure for the teams, everyone wants to be on top. It’s incredible to be here in front of the Eiffel Tower and it’s been amazing sport.”
Following today’s results, the Stockholm Hearts extend their lead on the overall ranking with a total of 177 points, 21 points ahead of closest rivals Berlin Eagles who have 156. After their podium today in Paris, Madrid In Motion move up to third place just one point behind on 155 and Prague Lions slide into fourth place on 153 points.
Fans filled the tall grandstands, nestled between the stunning backdrops of the Eiffel Tower and the École Militaire and with a perfect view of the action in the arena. With 10 teams sitting just a fence away from each other, every stride and calculated distance would count in the final result.
French course designer Gregory Bodo put together a flowing but changeable track, with riders switching back and forth across the square sand arena. A gappy delicate treble set along the long side next to VIP hospitality required caution and power in equal measure.
Overall ranking leaders Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses had an uphill battle following Friday’s 12 faults, with Lillie Keenan kicking off the charge with new ride Queensland E. The American rider delivered a foot-perfect clear today before passing the baton to teammate Lily Attwood and Cor-Leon vd Vlierbeek Z, the bay gelding jumping his heart out for the British rider to deliver their first clear of season and cruise into the lead thanks to their rapid time.
Last year’s GCL Paris winners St Tropez Pirates brought out Jérôme Guery who swapped rides for some fresh horsepower in Great Britain V to collect just four faults. Making his debut on the GCL circuit this weekend Emeric George and Calisco de Terlong also just collected an unfortunate 4 faults leaving the team with 16 faults but crucially for the Championship just inside the top 10.
Shanghai Swans team anchor Christian Ahlmann produced the goods once again with a clear on Mandato van de Neerheide keeping them on their overnight score of 8 penalties. During this year’s transfer window the Swans signed up Marlon Zanotelli and fielded their new striker in today’s crucial round. The Pan American Games winner delivered, pulling out a masterclass of a round with Like A Diamond van het Schaeck to put the team in the best possible chance of a significant points haul.
Mark McAuley pulled out a magnificent clear for Madrid In Motion with 9 year old GRS Lady Amaro and with the faults of other teams to come close together he left the team in a superb position. Although Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and Bentley de Sury had an unlucky rail the team slid into the lead on 12 faults but faster than the Stockholm Hearts.
There was heartache for Miami Celtics rider Jessica Springsteen when the final fence fell and immediately put them on the back foot and forcing new signing Edouard Schmitz to go clear and in a fast time. He held up the pressure and proved just why he was picked up in the mid-season transfers delivering a class clear to secure a podium for the Celtics.
The final three teams all had a two-pole advantage so it was everything to play for. First, up for the Berlin Eagles, Christian Kukuk touched one rail ever so slightly but it fell to the floor not leaving Eoin any room for error. Aiming for his first clear for the team this year Eoin McMahon was clear up until the last fence when the drama started as Chakra didn’t lock on and ran out causing multiple time faults and knocking the Eagles down the order.
Home team Paris Panthers were the penultimate team to go and have been chasing a win all season. The crowd groaned when Darragh Kenny and Volnay du Boisdeville knocked the first fence meaning it was a long way to go. Another rub halfway round put the team on 12 faults just like the Celtics and forced Ben Maher and Faltic HB to put the pedal to the metal. Showing their experience they were brilliantly quick to finish clear ahead of the Miami Celtics and had to hold their breath for the last team to go.
It all fell apart for overnight leaders as the pressure got too much for the Istanbul Sultans and they finished with a combined score from Andre Americo De Miranda and Ömer Karaevli of 25 faults plummeting them down the order to tenth place.
So the win would go to the Panthers after a spell-binding afternoon of top sport in Paris. The League now heads straight to Monaco for the 10th round of action in the Championship, as the battle hots up.