Nayel Nassar and Darragh Kenny propelled Paris Panthers to a meteoric rise up the overall GCL rankings today with formidable double clears securing their first victory of the season in the in the stunning destination of Monte Carlo.
Today’s turbulent GCL Round 2 triggered some dramatic moves in the overall ranking with Paris Panthers leapfrogging into 4th position on 117 points, but some of the top teams dropped down the standings.
Another strong result today from Monaco Aces’ team of Jos Verlooy and Julien Epaillard kept the squad in second place with 133 points, but Valkenswaard United’s Alberto Zorzi and Edwina Tops-Alexander managed to hold on to the overall lead with 171 points. Shanghai Swans slide into third place on 129 points after failing to maintain their stunning early season form.
Speaking after their emphatic victory Paris Panthers Team Manager Rob Hoekstra said: “The team were fantastic today, we had a good plan, the time wasn’t really an issue for us and the guys rode two copybook rounds. The horses were fantastic and the guys were top!”
A beaming Nayel Nasser explained why the arena suited their horses so well: “We can’t be happier with this convincing victory. Both our horses are quite compact, they bounced off the walls and they have a lot of power in their stride so they don’t need a ton of gallop to jump the jumps. The course played to our strengths and it suited them well today."
Darragh Kenny then added on the team strategy: “Both Nayel and I have very, very talented horses and they were jumping great so there was no reason to change anything.”
In the seventh round of action in the GCL Championship race, the teams and riders headed to the smallest arena on the circuit, set in the shadow of the Prince’s Palace in Monaco. Nestled between the superyacht harbour and the Formula 1 pitlane, the teams contested a technical challenge as a cool breeze blew in from the Mediterranean.
Uliano Vezzani produced a tight and technical course, with athletes racing up and down the arena with a time allowed of 69s. The design was challenging from the start, with a vertical out of the first corner requiring instant focus and commitment. Other challenges were posed by a gappy final fence and a Longines treble set along the side of the arena off a turn, requiring plenty of smoothness and balance where spectators watched on.
Both riders of the Cascais Charms opted to keep the same horses as yesterday. With the team’s round 1 score of 32 faults weighing heavily on their minds Rene Lopez Lizarazo and Stalognia set off at a calm, steady pace working hard to keep his enthusiastic horse under control. It wasn’t to be as they came home with another 14 faults to add to their tally. It was an unfortunate 12 faults from Ahmad Saber Hamcho and Deville bringing the total up to 58 faults and not a day to remember.
There was huge disappointment for the Hamburg Giants as both team members picked up double figure faults increasing their already large total. Rodrigo Giesteira Almeida and Carado had an unexpected refusal at the Monaco coloured oxer before coming home with 11. They then brought Natalia Czernik off the bench with Everdi and crossed through the finish line with 10 to add, making it a team total of 51 faults.
There was drama when the poles kept falling for Agustin Covarrubias and Teavanta II C Z who then opted to retire causing the Cannes Stars to be eliminated before Sameh El Dahan and Suma's Zorro had even jumped.
Ellen Whitaker was first to compete for Miami Celtics, bringing forward 12 year old black stallion Arena UK Winston. The middle of the Longines combination fell finishing with a solid round but 4 faults. The first clear round of the day then came from Johnny Pals and Fernando as the gusty ride paid off after he took 6 strides to the Longines triple and kept the team on 28 faults.
Madrid In Motion
Madrid In Motion both rode big horses in the small, unusually shaped arena. They were the first team to produce a double clear and stay on their overnight score of 16 faults. Neither Eric van der Vleuten on Wunschkind or teammate Eduardo Alvarez Aznar went fast but this tactic paid off and put the pressure on the multiple teams on 12 faults still to come.
Interestingly the Prague Lions swapped their starting order for Jur Vrieling and Fiumicino van de Kalevallei to test the track out first. The wide GC oxer fell and immediately the team were on the back foot. But it was another fast, flawless clear after taking all the inside turns from Sergio Alvarez Moya and Alamo to keep the team on 16 faults and jumping up the leader board to finish in 5th overall.
With their scarlet armbands current GCL ranking leaders Valkenswaard United made no horse or rider changes for the second round. But Edwina Tops-Alexander brought down the delicate GCL plank on Identity Vitseroel. They couldn’t match the pace and although Alberto Zorzi produced the goods with a clear run, the slow time dropped them down the order once again proving how crucial the clock is.
Another team to start with an overnight score of 12 faults were the Shanghai Swans and they were one of the only teams to both bring out fresh horsepower. Once the first part of the GCL double fell for Solid Gold Z and Christian Ahlmann, the German immediately picked up the pace knowing they were now on the backfoot with 4 faults to add. There was heartache for Max Kühner and Up Too Jacco Blue as the final fence fell and they had to settle for 20 faults.
New York Empire
Coming onto the team today New York Empire fielded Denis Lynch with the stunning stallion Cristello. They pulled out all the stops and kept Empire in the game with a top clear round. But there was disappointment on Scott Brash’s face as the GCL plank came tumbling down when Hello Mr President touched it with his front legs. It was a wild but exciting round and the team finished with a fast 16 faults.
2019 winners the Scandinavian Vikings brought out young talent Teddy Vlock with Conner first. They took the testing track in their stride and picked up a well respected 4 faults in round two. Fresh from his first CSI5* win last night, James Wilson and L'amour were also caught out by the middle part of the Longines triple before two other fences fell and the Vikings ended with 26 faults putting them right down the order.
Mike Kawai would be the first to take to the track for the Doha Falcons on his Olympic ride As de Mai. Coming home with just the four faults for the young talent plus a time fault, team manager Willem Meeus looked pleased as he gave teammate Titouan Schumacher some last-minute advice from the kiss and cry. Atome Z threw a huge shape out of the double for Schumacher and it was a super-fast Formula One style clear keeping them on a fast 12 faults and securing them fourth place.
St Tropez Pirates
After a rollercoaster of a season so far the Pirates were looking for back to back wins after their success in Pairs last weekend. Up first was Michael Pender with HHS Burnchurch, the lightest of touches caused another 4 to be added to their total piling pressure on star striker Pieter Devos and Apart. Devos kept a smooth and flowing pace, steadying the chestnut between the fast-approaching fences. They finished clear and helped the Pirates land the final spot on the podium.
Longines Ambassador of Elegance Jane Richard Philips worked hard to keep Fouego de la Closiere shape, power and balance to the fences but it was an unusual 13 faults for the combination dropping them right down the order. The Eagles sunk further after passing the reins to young gun Laura Klaphake and Quinn. The pair gave it everything but two down meant the team had to settle for 25 faults.
It all fell apart for the 2018 & 2019 Championship winners London Knights after both Martin Fuchs with new face on the tour Tam Tam du Valon and Olivier Philippaerts on the experienced H&M Legend of Love picked up a costly 8 faults each. They finished with a tally of 20 and didn’t gain the ranking points they were looking for finishing in 10th place and sliding down the standings.
Home city team Monaco Aces were confident enough in their horsepower not to make any changes. The team had an extra boost from the crowd as they headed into the second round today. Flying Frenchman Julien Epaillard had the pedal to the metal with Billabong du Roumois but this proved a risky tactic and two fences fell meaning Verlooy had to go clear to stay on the podium. The on form Jos Verlooy opted for Jacobien Dwerse Hagen for this high-octane competition and the pair proved why they are such a valuable member of the team, producing the clear once again to claim second place on home turf.
Final team to go to the Paris Panthers also opted for the same horses as Thursday’s first round and this dramatic team strategy paid off. Nayel Nassar made life easy for Darragh Kenny producing a superb clear with Evergate Stables’ Igor van de Wittemoere. With a three fence margin Darragh Kenny was still determined to pull out a double clear today on Idalville d'Esprit. The impressive horse full of scope and enthusiasm made it look easy and came home to a standing ovation after the only team to ride a clean sheet and take the win in powerful style.
My vision is clear. Only the best for the best.