The 2023 Championship race hots up…
In the huge grass arena at Riesenbeck in the heart of Germany, the Paris Panthers successfully closed the Championship gap to Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian with back-to-back GCL wins. The thrilling showdown culminated in a dramatic finale as Riesenbeck International, last to go, had a single unfortunate pole down, paving the way for the Paris Panthers, Ben Maher and Jur Vierling to secure the victory.
Today was a fiercely competitive battleground for the world's top teams, and the Paris Panthers collected maximum points after a double clear with Long John Silver and Dallas Vegas Batilly in round 2. The final moments were nothing short of nail-biting when the pressure got to Christian Kukuk collecting a costly time fault in R1 and 4 faults in R2 with Just be Gentle. But Philipp Weishaupt and 9-year-old Zineday kept all the poles up to secure the team second at their home event. Rounding off the podium, Shanghai Swans made a comeback in the second half of the season as Max Kühner on Eic Coriolis Des Isles and Daniel Deusser with Killer Queen VDM finished with a total of 8 faults.
Following their win, the winning duo sat down with GCTV. Following a rough start to the year, Ben Maher commented on the team’s progression as the GCL series has gone on: “We said last week that [this year] we’ve had a couple of rough rounds where things didn't really go our way, which is the sport, but we do have a strong team. Jur joined me for the first time on the team together, which was fun, a lot of strength and depth in our team which is helping us towards the end of the season.”
Jur Vierling then added:“I think we still have a really good chance to fight for the Championship title until the end. Team tactics clearly played a big part in that Long John is not the quickest horse, but he has a lot of scope and could jump any fence in the world I think.”
Jumping on home soil added an extra level of pressure for the ultra consistent team Riesenbeck International. With this event and the following to come, real make or break in the Championship standings, the pressure is now on as Paris Panthers creep up on the unsuspecting team.
Commenting on the dueling teams, and Riesenbeck International’s challenger’s in the Paris Panthers, Philipp Weishaupt told GCTV: “It’s getting exciting now for the rest of the season, to be honest I don’t need this excitement, I would have preferred to have not had this excitement, i would preferred to have won here and played it safe but now they are coming from behind… if you see the riders that they have, it’s insane, they have the best riders in the world,”
With the Championship Standings now in the balance, the importance of planning and strategy is now stronger than ever. Speaking of his team’s plan for the event’s ahead, former team rider and current team manager, Ludger Beerbaum, said: “As we did for the first 11 stages, we will bring the best horses and riders to each and every event. We have not yet decided who goes to London and Valkenswaard - that is not because we do not want to decide, because we have learned that if you plan too far ahead that things are changing.”
The back-to-back victories showcased the Paris Panthers' ability to thrive under pressure and seize crucial moments. With their sights firmly set on the Championship title, the team is determined to maintain their momentum. Riesenbeck International still lead the Championship on 259 points but closing the gap Paris Panthers now sit on 234 points. After a tough finish today Madrid In Motion have 196 points and rounding off the battle for top four the St Tropez Pirates finish leg 11 on 183 points.
After a difficult round one Madrid In Motion were fighting to defend their position in top 4 rather than fighting for second place in the Championship. The poles kept falling and Maikel van der Vleunten and Laura Kraut had to settle for their worst position this season at the bottom end of the leaderboard.
In a make or break weekend for Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses, following two eliminations in a row and with no spare riders the pressure was on Malin Bayard-Johnsson and Olivier Philippearts. Pulling it out the bag in round 2 with a flawless double clear from the insane horsepower of H&M Indiana and H&M Legend of Love, the team finished just off the podium but kept them in with a chance of finishing in the top 4 championship battle.
There was drama when Spencer Smith opted to retire for New York Empire powered by Lugano Diamonds forcing the team to be eliminated and end their run of solid results recently.
Youngest team of the weekend, Mexico Amigos, saw Tom Wachman make his GCL debut on Berlux. After a foot-perfect clear in round 1 an unlucky pole in the second round added with 8 faults from Hans-Dieter Dreher with Elysium put them right down the order.
After just jumping into the top 4 St Tropez Pirates put forward a very strong line-up of horses and riders for today’s challenge. However, it fell apart at the last hurdle when Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and VDL Grand Slam came home on 12 faults. A clear from Simon Delestre and Dexter Fontenis Z meant they finished top 5 overall.
Paris Panthers piled the pressure on the home team as Ben Maher and Jur Vierling secured a clean sheet on Dallas Vegas Batilly and Long John Silver to just carry forward the 4 faults from round one. Keeping the Championship race alive with only 4 stages left after Riesenbeck they gave the home team no room for error.
The crowd erupted when last to go, home favorites Riesenbeck International entered the arena. A gut wrenching rail fell for Christian Kukuk and Just Be Gentle for first to go, the pair handed the win to Paris Panthers on a platter. Philipp Weisuapt kept a cool head, needing to bring home a clear if they wanted to stay in second after Kukuk’s agonizing time fault in round one. Exiting the arena waving to the enthusiastic fans the pair were still pleased to collect valuable points.
As the GCL championship race blazes ahead, teams now eagerly anticipate the next thrilling stage set to take place at the iconic London Royal Hospital Chelsea from 10 - 13 August.