A Coruña, a picturesque coastal city in Spain, was electrified today with equestrian excitement as it played host to the thrilling and crucial tenth stage of the 2023 GCL team series. It was Ben Maher with Ginger Blue and Harrie Smolders on consistent Monaco who leaped to the top of GCL A Coruña presented by CaixaBankas as the only double clear of the day.
Scandinavian Vikings duo of World Number One Henrik von Eckermann on King Edward and Richard Howley with Consulent de Prelet Z picked up another second place finishing as the fastest team on four faults. Championship leaders Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian once again picked up valuable ranking points taking another podium in third ahead of their home event next weekend.
With just thirty points separating today’s winners, Paris Panthers, and current Championship leaders, Riesenbeck International, Harrie Smolders spoke of what it will take to close that gap even further. “We closed the gap a little bit today, but Riesenbeck [International] are still quite far ahead I think - they’re also really focused on the overall [Championship win], and are always putting forward their best horses in the GCL competition. Nevertheless, you never know in our sport, they could have a bad run.”
Speaking of the team looking to pounce on a higher Championship standing, Ben Maher alluded to the move they’re looking to make in the next stages of the GCL championship race. “We have the horses and we have the riders, just we need everything to go right at the right time - that’s the sport, and sometimes you have a tough week which has been pretty damaging for us once or twice. We are on the way back, there’s a few legs left and we have a lot of horses, and riders with a lot of horses to choose from, so hopefully we can come strong at the end,” he said.
2023 GCL Championship Standings after round 10:
Riesenbeck International: 234
Paris Panthers: 204
Madird In Motion: 188
St Tropez Pirates: 166
The scenic backdrop of A Coruña's sprawling coastline served as an idyllic setting for this crucial stage of the GCL series. The city's equestrian enthusiasts and international spectators eagerly gathered at the state-of-the-art showgrounds, buzzing with anticipation. With a reputation for hosting top-tier equestrian events, A Coruña was prepared to witness the fierce competition among the world's best riders and horses in the ultimate team challenge.
With seven of 16 teams posting two clear rounds in Round 1, the question on everyone’s lips was who could prove consistent with a second double clear in Round 2, and ultimately lift the trophy of the GCL of A Coruña, presented by CaixaBank?
It was dramatic scenes for Riyah Blue powered by AlHilal as Abdulrahman Alrajhi rode a double clear on board Babalou, giving them a chance at their first podium of the year. But an uncharacteristic refusal from David Will and Zaccorado Blue forced him to pick up the pace in order to not get time faults, ultimately also having one rail down.
It was a long way round for Patrick Stühlmeyer and Drako de Maugre after the first fence came tumbling down. A neat and tidy clear from anchorman Philipp Weishaupt and Coby kept the team in the race as they head to their home event next weekend in Riesenbeck.
Heading into their home show next week as Championship Leaders, Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian will have the weight of the full house on their shoulders. Commenting on the week ahead, Weishaupt said: “Next week is going to be a big week for us, I think that all the fans will watch and maybe come and visit us in Riesenbeck, we have a beautiful show so they won’t be disappointed if they come and watch, or follow it on GCTV, we are really looking forward to leading in our home show, and hope that we are going to bring a really strong team out next week… and let’s see - maybe we have another win or another podium!”
It all fell apart for Valkenswaard United as even though young gun Gilles Thomas rode a flawless double clear for the team, two down and two time faults for John Whitaker and Equine America Unick du Francport forced them down the rankings.
Paris Panthers proved their experience, with Ben Maher aboard Ginger-Blue and Ioli Mytilneou with La Perla VD Heffnick posting a quick and careful clear round each in Round 1, with Ben and Ginger-Blue backing up with another clear alongside Harrie Smolders and Monaco N.O.P in Round 2. They pulled the pressure on the remaining teams to go and one by one they started to buckle.
New signing for Scandinavian Vikings, Richard Howley proved his worth once again. Putting in a lightning fast round for an unlucky rail to fall before handing over the reins to world number one. Fighting for second place, Henrik von Eckermann set off at a rapid speed with the one and only King Edward. Keeping all the fences up he secured the team their second podium finish of the year.
As a new member of the team acquired during the Mid Season Transfer Period, while standing alongside World Number 1, and fellow teammate Henrik Von Eckermann, Richard Howley commented on riding alongside some incredible talent: “I am delighted to be here, competing at the top in the sport, with obviously the best riders in the world. I try and learn from them, watch them, and develop myself to hopefully be as good as them.”
Anchored by the ultra reliable von Eckermann and King Edward, the team have set their sights on climbing the 2023 Championship standings, as he explained: “I am 100% sure I will do every show that’s left of the Globals, I am not 100% on the others [team members] but we will try now to really climb and do our best to have the best horses and the best riders - we are going for it”.
Last to go St Tropez Pirates had to take advantage of Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses not competing in round two to bump themselves up the ranking into the exclusive top four. A single pole down for both Simon Delestre and Marlon Modolo Zanotelli put them just off the podium but crucially into fourth on the overall season rankings.
Showcasing the world's finest show jumping talent, the event featured intense competition and breathtaking performances. As the dust settled, a deserving team emerged victorious, basking in the glory of their remarkable achievements.
GCL now heads into the home turf of current Championship Leaders, to Riesenbeck International in Germany for the 11th stage, from 20 - 23 July.