The much-awaited GCL of Madrid presented by Caixabank was a spectacular showcase of world-class talent. As the prestigious Club de Campo Villa de Madrid filled with a large and enthusiastic audience.
On the opening day of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Madrid the two GCL rounds of exciting and nail-biting team format kept spectators on the edge of their seats as it was Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses and Paris Panthers went head to head for top spot on the podium.
With Madrid and the expansive grass arena known for its unpredictability and creating fierce rivalries, it was down to the wire as the last three teams to go in Round 2 ultimately took podium positions.
Speaking of the Paris Panthers team win, Harrie Smolders spoke of the team’s strategy heading into GCL Madrid.“Victory always feels great. I think with four different horses, it is not so easy. I left the door open a little bit at the end with the time but it made it even more exciting. Our’s and everyone’s expectations last year were very high because we have a very strong rider team. But in the end it is all about horsepower.”
With the new GCL format launching in 2023, Jur Vierling spoke of how it’s affecting team strategy and ultimately, results: “I very much like this new format of having both rounds back to back. For me I did the tactic to put Fumacio in the second round because he is a little bit faster and time counts more. It is good for the horses.”
He then went on to add that team manager Rob Hoekstra brings to the team: “He plans very far ahead and he is very positive but also very strict about things, like how we ride the course in terms of speed. So far it is working fantastic.”
Hoekstra then added: “You are always very excited when you are in with a chance of winning. But a lot can happen in four rounds. The boys were incredible today - we are so so happy! We have three great riders here but these two really delivered today.”
In Round one the first double clear was produced by Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses. Phillipaerts duo of Olivier and Nicola showed everyone how it was done putting them in pole position for round 2. While there were lots of other shock results for Championship contenders Prague Lion’s when Niels Brynseels had a run out at the penultimate fence costing the team a clean sheet.
Just two teams entered round two on a clean sheet, Stockholm Hearts and Paris Panthers but could they keep their heads under intense pressure and pull off a win? With the top three placed teams entering the arena as the three last to go, it was clear that was all on the line.
St Tropez Pirates, represented in Madrid by Katrin Eckermann and Cala Mandia and Simon Delestre I Amelusina R 51 in Round 1, and Cayman Jolly Jumper in Round 2, entered the arena with one thing on their mind. The Win.
Eckermann and Cala Mandia added a single rail to the team’s eight fault total from Round 1, with the crowd falling silent as the flying frenchman, Simon Delestre, entered the ring. Posting the fastest clear out of all riders in round two with a blistering time of 65.57, and leaving all rails standing, Delestre and Cayman Jolly Jumper helped to carry the team in their third place.
Breaths around the arena were held as the Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses team entered the arena as second last to go. Brothers and dynamic duo Nicola and Olivier Philippaerts posted one of the only double clear rounds in Round 1, so were heading into Round 2 on a clean sheet. An unfortunate and uncharacteristic 10 faults for Olivier and H&M Miro saw the team secure their second place position.
Enter, the Paris Panthers. Harrie Smolders and Bingo Du Parc alongside Jur Vrieling and Fiumicino van de Kalevallei kept their cool in Round 2 as last to go. A clear from Vrieling and Fiumicino, and a single rail for Smolders and Bingo du Parc saw the crowd on their feet and the team finishing on one single rail. Leaning on tactics of both riders riding a second mount in Round 2, the question remains, was this approach the result of their success?
So the win would go to a delighted Paris Panthers team who had the perfect weekend. The GCL team series now looks to Ramatuelle, Saint-Tropez (1-3 June 2023), where fans will witness the world’s best take center stage for the fifth leg of the Championship race in glamorous style.