Shanghai Swans dramatically piled pressure on GCL rivals with another formidable clean sheet in the first round of the GCL setting up a tantalising battle on Saturday on the French Riviera.
Fans were unable to peel their eyes away from the competition, which showcased drama, heartache and glory at almost every moment, producing very few clears.
The high stakes team competition was full of glory and heartache as the 16 teams delivered fantastic top-level sport for fans around the world watching the action on GCTV. The intensity of the first round underlined the incredible battle to secure GCL championship points in these crucial early stages of the team series.
Smiling Max Kühner said: “It was not so easy today, it was a new experience for me today on a horse that hasn’t done this level before and it is always exciting when you do it for the first time, especially when you are in a team and want to do a good job.”
Chrisitan explained after his round: “It is a totally different arena to last week in Madrid but the horses jumped very well. It is only half time and we need to stay focused and try out best on Saturday again.”
Remarkably, only two teams finished on a double clear. Gregory Bodo set a twisting, flowing course, with the penultimate line quickly becoming the bogey fences of the track but the time allowed was fair and didn’t cause as many issues as first thought.
The Swans lead the pack with Valkenswaard United hot on their heels in second place also on 0 faults after Peder Fredricson and Edwina Tops-Alexander produced foot perfect clear rounds on their horses H&M All In and Identity Vitseroel. An unlucky pole proved costly for New York Empire’s Spencer Smith and Shane Breen who came home with a score of 4, despite great jumping rounds from their top horses Ayade Hero Z and Z7 Ipswich.
As the sun started to set over Pampelonne Beach on the Mediterranean Sea, which is situated just a short walk from the picturesque arena, the GCL teams faced off to put themselves in the best position possible ahead of Saturday’s showdown
Ben Maher drew the short straw today as the first to go around this challenging track. He brought out his speedy 10-year-old Ginger-Blue, the bay mare leaping excessively over the fences. They flew around the arena but after picking up an early fault and the final fence falling it was a total of 8 for the combination today. Teammate Nicola Philippaerts brought out Katanga v/h Dingeshof and made light work of the course and time allowed finishing clear with impressive speed and keeping the team on 8 overnight.
Ludger Beerbaum brought out the beautiful grey Mila and worked hard to move around the arena but there was heartache for the pair as they came home on the 4 faults after knocking the front rail out of the oxer on the triple combination. Up next Laura Klaphake and Bantou Balou Old added another 4 faults to their tally leaving the team on a total score of 8 in a slow time of 138.10s.
Putting a lot of effort in as they jumped Sameh El Dahan and Suma's Zorro made it look easy and crossed the finish line clear and inside the time. Handing the reins and pressure over to Agustin Covarrubias and Teavanta II C Z the pair set off at a good pace but it wasn’t their day as poles fell all around the course leaving the team on a total of 25 faults today.
Bringing out the same team as they started the season with in Doha, the Miami Celtics were set to thrive in the large sand arena. U25 rider Andrzej Oplatek and Conthinder were fast in the first sector and showed they will be one to watch for the future, but a knock at the third to last fence left them with 4 faults. It was the first fence of the triple combination that caught out Johnny Pals and Fernando leaving the Celtics with a respectable 8 faults.
The small but mighty gelding of H&M All In touched the Dolce & Gabbana oxer but it stayed up as Peder Fredricson cruised him around for an important clear round. Edwina Tops-Alexander and Identity Vitseroel then made Valkenswaard United the first team to finish on a clean sheet dramatically changing the competition and putting the pressure on rest of the field.
First to go for the Prague Lions today was Sergio Alvarez Moya, the Spanish rider piloting his 13 year old black gelding Alamo round for a sensational fast clear and giving teammate Anna some room for error. With the experienced Catch me If You Can Old, Anna couldn’t quite hold the mare enough through the final stages of the course to pick up 8 faults and dropping the team down to 12th place.
Looking to build on their comeback last week in Madrid the same combination of Nayel Nassar and Harrie Smolders took to the field of play today. Nayel Nassar let the pressure get to him on Lucifer V and two poles fell for a total of 8 faults. But it was the experienced Harrie Smolders who pulled it back for the Panthers on the talented horse Monaco. They go into Saturday’s final in 9th place with the hope of climbing up the leader board once again.
Bothers Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo and Rene Lopez Lizarazo entered the arena still talking team tactics. Carlos opted for the super speedy approach on Evita SG Z and the risk paid off catapulting him straight into the lead. Unfortunately, after a second refusal from Rene Lopez Lizarazo and Twig du Veillon the Cascais Charms were eliminated and won’t be back to fight on Saturday.
Leading off for the Aces was young gun Jeanne Sadran and Unforgettable Damvil, the big striding stallion careful around the course. A light touch added an undeserved 4 faults to their score before passing over to Jos Verlooy and Jacobien Dwerse Hagen. The combination proved why they were picked today and pulled out a foot-perfect clear to help the Aces finish in 5th today.
Titouan Schumacher brought out the familiar face of Atome Z, a 14 year old bay. The pair knew exactly what to do and tackled all sectors of the course with ease. But there was heartache for the team as Philip Houston and Sandros S Bella had a hard knock and the team then finished as the slowest on four faults in 138.47s
New signing to the team James Wilson proved his place after producing a clear in his debut GCL competition on Imagine de Muze. Bringing team anchor onto the team Henrik von Eckermann was going flat out with Hera de Landetta II. But a small mistake would drop them to 4 in a blistering team time of 133.22 seconds and go into Saturday’s showdown in 4th place.
Overall ranking leaders the Shanghai Swans fielded the most consistent pair in GCL this season. Christian Alhmann led the charge with the striking stallion Solid Gold Z, the horse was on springs, clearing everything with ease to bring home a 0 fault round once again. Max Kühner then kept the team on only clear rounds so far this season as he cruised his striding Eic Caleo round to claim top spot once again and finish 2 seconds faster than the only other team on a double clear Valkenswaard United.
It would be a first-round to forget for the Giants after Zoe Osterhoff and Ferrari VDL put 12 faults on the board, before Bart Bles and Fernando-H added a further 5 faults to the tally to topple the team’s total today. They would finish on 17 with everything to do on Saturday.
New York Empire
Shane Breen and the 13 year old Z7 Ipswich were lucky as they tapped a few fences - the duo putting but put an important clear on the board for the team. Spencer Smith then gave it everything he could on Ayade Hero Z going as fast as he could. Unfortunately, it was too risky and a late pole put them out of contention to take the lead and had to settle for 3rd place.
Madrid In Motion
Maikel van der Vleuten and Kamara van’t Heike tackled the course with determination. They executed their plan to perfection, leaving every fence up and posting a fast time for teammate Micheal G Duffy to match. It was looking like a faultless round for the young Irishman and Lapuccino but the pressure got to him in the final line adding a stride, causing the back rail to come crashing down off the final fence. Madrid in Motion takes sixth place going into Saturday.
St Tropez Pirates
The home city team St Tropez Pirates fielded Frenchman Olivier Robert with Vangog du Mas Garnier - the pair opting for a steadier round as it didn’t go to plan. Finishing with 13 faults there wasn’t much Pieter Devos could do to turn it around. He rode the extremely talented Clarie Z round and showed all his class with an unlucky fault. They had a combined total of 17 faults leaving them towards the bottom of the leaderboard.
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