Winners of GCL’s 100th Stage. Regained Championship lead. A third win this season.
Celebrating the GCL’s 100th stage in Cannes presented by Volvo it was Christian Kukuk and Philipp Schulze Topphoff who managed to secure the win in the momentous occasion for Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian.
This weekend marks a significant milestone in the league's history. Since its inception in 2016, GCL has captivated audiences and redefined the landscape of team-show jumping competitions. With its unique team format and thrilling challenges, the league has united top riders from around the globe, fostering camaraderie and fierce competition amongst the sport's elite. As the GCL continues to expand its global reach, the 100th stage in Cannes was one to remember.
The electrifying atmosphere and passionate support from the French crowd created an unforgettable experience for both competitors and fans alike. Last to go and fresh off their win in St Tropez last week New York Empire powered by Lugano Diamonds had to settle for second with two outstanding rounds under extreme pressure from Denis Lynch and Spencer Smith.
In their strongest finish for 2023’s championship race so far, Istanbul Warriors powered by Carpe Diem rounded out the podium with two stellar clear rounds from Andreas Schou and accompanied by strong rounds posted by teammate Ömer Karaevli earning them crucial championship points.
An emotional Christian Kukuk spoke about regaining championship lead: “I want to keep the red ranking armband for longer than only one show because we have given it way already three times this year. When I watched the class, I got a little nervous - I have a 9-year-old horse and I don't know her on this level very well. I only have her for a few months now, but when I went in the ring and Philipp crossed the line with a clear round I thought ok, now is the moment to slow down and concentrate. I must stay, what my horse did in the end was just incredible and we have all the reasons to be very, very happy tonight.”
Under 25 young-gun Philipp Schulze Topphoff continues to prove his worth in the ultimate teams challenge. “I try not to make it not too obvious that I am ‘the younger one’ - I have a brilliant team especially helpful on course walks. We are delighted with the win at this fantastic show!”
Once again Riesenbeck International take the lead in the overall season standings after a 50% win rate this season now on 132 points. Paris Panthers jumped into second on 128 points while Madrid In Motion have moved down to third on 122 points
Last year’s GCL of Cannes winners Prague Lions crushed their chances of doing back-to-back wins when an uncharacteristic stop in R1 from Pieter Devos and Claire Z put their team on a large score. However, last week’s winners in St Tropez New York Empire upped their game once again to secure the fastest double clear of round 1 just ahead of the Irish duo from Rome Gladiators who secured the only other clean sheet of Round 1.
How the drama unfolded…
With rails falling thick and fast over the first part of round 2, Istanbul Warriors powered by Carpe Diem took full advantage of the other teams' faults. Andreas Schou and Darc de Lux flew around the floodlit square arena to stop the clock clear and fast to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd. An unlucky single rail fell for Omer Karaevli and Maurice putting the Warriors on top and in contention for their first-ever podium.
There was disappointment for the Paris Panthers after a successful first round, they dropped down the order to fourth after uncharacteristic faults from Harrie Smolders and Jur Vierling. Riyadh Blue powered by Al Hilal finished in a solid 8th as David Will and Abdulrahman Alrajhi helped lift the team off the bottom of the ranking.
Leading U25 rider Philipp Schulze Topphoff and 10-year-old Carla proved once again just how crucial they are to Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland. Delivering yet another clear the young rider punched the air as he crossed the finish line before heading over to the other side of the arena to debrief his round and talk strategy with Christian Kukuk before he jumped. Riding the 9-year-old Just Be Gentle foot perfectly over the tricky 1.60m track the crowd erupted as the German couple stormed to the top of the leaderboard.
Having won the first-ever stage of GCL in 2016, all hopes were pinned on a storybook finish for Valkenswaard United in the 100th edition. An extremely uncharacteristic twelve faults from Fellow Castlefield and Edwina Tops-Alexander accompanied by a delicate 4 from John Whitaker aboard Equine America Unick Du Francport left the crowd favorite in 6th place.
Entering round 2 on a clean sheet, Rome Gladiators powered by Clip My Horse TV, looked set to take their first win the year but a gut-wrenching final fence fell for Trevor Breen and Highland President pilling the pressure on Micheal Duffy and Cinca 3. Unfortunately, it all fell apart and a total of 12 faults for the Irishman pushed them down the order to 5th overall.
Last to go the pressure was on New York Empire powered by Lugano Diamonds. The daring duo of Lynch on PSS Levilensky and Spencer Smith with Theodore Manciais had a one-fence advantage on Riesenbeck International. However, a fence down from both handed the German boys their third win of the season. Watching the clock the whole way around, New York Empire risked it all to finish as the fastest team on 8 faults and secure second in Cannes.
GCL now heads to the Swedish capital of Stockholm from 16 - 18 June where it will be a battle of the best at the mid-way stage of the season, and crucially the second to last event before the mid-season transfers.