The Shanghai Swans delivered a show-stopping GCL London final under intense pressure with Christian Ahlmann and Max Kühner reigning supreme at the historic and picturesque Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Shanghai Swans stepped up to top spot on the podium for the third time this season after the winning teams were escorted into the arena by Chelsea Pensioners in their traditional Scarlets and the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch and City of London Police Mounted Branch
Speaking about London Max Kühner said: “It’s a special location, it’s a lot of fun to ride here. So many people, we are not so used to it anymore. To ride in front of so many people feels very good."
Smiling Christian Ahlmann said: “I put max a little bit under pressure so that he’d concentrate for his round and it worked out good. The horses jumped fantastic and I had a really great feeling today."
Today’s result means the Swans have closed the gap in the Championship battle. Valkenswaard United still lead the overall ranking with 195 points, whereas the Shanghai Swans now sit on 180 points, pulling away from closest rivals. Paris Panthers have moved up to third, with 164 points in their bag as they look to qualify in the top four for the GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs.
The 9th leg of the Championship saw top sport come down to the wire in Great Britain's capital city. Just a stone’s throw from the River Thames and under bright blue skies, fans packed into the grandstands, waving British flags patriotically as well as London Knights emblems with local spectators rooting for their home team.
Uliano Vezzani produced a tricky and technical course, a real test for the teams as they battled to keep a clear combined score.
Ellen Whitaker kept her mount Arena UK Winston for this round of competition while Johnny Pals opted to pull in his top horse Ferando. Whitaker was keen to improve on her score from yesterday. The pair absolutely flew around the arena but had one down before Pals added another 12 faults to bring their total up to 37 faults and finishing down the order.
The Aces made one horse change with Jos Verlooy stepping up with Varoune. They attacked the course and produced the first clear of the day keeping the team on 12 faults so far. Unfortunately, Laura Kraut couldn’t keep all the fences up with Confu as both fences fell in the final line to cause the Aces to finish on an unusual total of 20 faults.
Keeping the exact same team as yesterday the Vikings chose Evelina Tovek and Winnetou de la Hamente Z to tackle the course first, the team tactics paid off, the duo delivering the much needed clear. Frank Schuttert and Lyonel D powered around the arena to make it the first team to jump a double clear and stay on their total of 12 from yesterday.
The Cannes stars didn’t start well with Agustin Covarrubias and Flora de L' Impermeable picking up 6 faults before Sameh El Dahan and WKD Aimez Moi added another four bringing the team total up to 22 faults.
The Prague Lions had top horsepower today as Niels Bruynseels brought out his top mare Gancia de Muze and Sergio Alvarez Moya riding the on form Alamo. It was an early four faults for Bruynseels in a lightning-fast time. Moya delivered the clear for the team and they stayed on 12 faults in the fastest time of 149.50s that just slid them off the podium in fourth place.
Madrid in Motion
Both riders for Madrid In Motion opted to change horses and the plan paid off for young talent Micheal G Duffy and Lapuccino 2 securing a 0 score even after a hard touch at the final fence. Luck wasn’t on Irishman Mark McAuley’s side as they picked up four faults on Jasco v. Bisschop and the team had to settle for 7th place with 12 faults overall.
It was a shock elimination for current ranking leaders Valkenswaard United after two refusals from Alberto Zorzi and Cinsey at the Longines triple before Peder Fredricson had jumped causing drama in the Championship race.
New York Empire
With team owner Georgina Bloomberg watching on Spencer Smith brought back the high flying Theodore Manciais, they delivered the clear, putting the pressure on the shoulders of teammate Scott Brash. He opted to ride Hello Vincent but it wasn’t their day and two down brought their total up to 16 faults.
Jodie Hall Mcateer was clearly riding with time in mind on Kimosa van het Kritrahof pushing the mare at all the right moments. It was a solid round but one fence fell leaving it down to mid-season signing Roger Yves Bost and Sangria du Coty to deliver. They had four faults to add bringing it up to a team total of 16 faults.
St Tropez Pirates
Flying Frenchman Olivier Robert rode a beautifully judged clear round on Vivaldi Des Meneaux to give the team the best possible chance. Their second rider Pieter Devos and Jade vd Bisschop kept the pace steady, their tactics clearly to leave all the poles up, and they finished with no faults helping secure third place on the podium and all important ranking points.
Fielding the exact same power duo of Laura Klaphake on Quin and Christian Kukuk with Checker the Berlin Eagles gave it everything from the word go. One down for each teammate means they finished with a total of 12 faults in a slow time settling for 8th place overall.
There was heartache for the Doha Falcons as they came into round two on a clean sheet but faults all over the course from Yuri Mansur with Vitiki and Constant van Paesschen on Isidoor van de Helle dropped them right down the order with a total of 20 faults and no chance of a podium today.
The home team were greeted with a roar from the crowd - all waving their flags and cheering the home city team. It was a flawless clear round from Emily Moffitt and Winning Good who kept cool heads under pressure. Aiming to make it three wins in a row in GCL London Nicola Philippaerts set off on a mission. Unfortunately, a late pole fell for Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga v.H Dingeshof to cause the Knights to finish with a score of 4 faults in a slow time of 161.48 and giving the Swans room for error.
Gregory Wathelet put his foot on the gas with Faut-Il Des 7 Vallons which proved a costly move having a fence down and adding extra work for Darragh Kenny and Idalville d'Esprit. The Panthers couldn't continue their winning streak as Kenny also made two mistakes knocking the team straight down the order to 5th place on 12 faults.
The final team to go Shanghai Swans were hot favourites and both riders chose to bring out fresh horsepower. Christian Ahlmann and Solid Gold Z had an early fault piling the pressure onto his teammate to go clear. Final rider Max Kühner had the weight on his shoulders but looked calm and focused as he entered the arena with Up Too Jacco Blue. They kept to a steady pace guiding the talented horse around the track. They crossed the finish line clear, the crowds roaring their approval as Kühner brought home the win for the team.
The Championship now looks to Valkenswaard, The Netherlands, for the 10th round of action in the battle of the best.