The formidable pairing of Christian Ahlmann with Take A Chance On Me Z and Max Kühner on Vancouver Dreams put Shanghai Swans at the top of today’s scoreboard in the thrilling GCL Madrid round one. The team were the only double clear but home team Madrid In Motion are only one fault behind in second place.
Speaking after his win Christian Ahlmann smiled: "We are very happy to be the only double clear. The course caused faults everywhere so was very fair - well done to the course builder."
Max Kühner agreed and let on their team strategy for tomorrow’s final explaining: “We will both change horses for tomorrow. Christian will ride Dominator and I will ride Elektric Blue. We are very happy to be back here, it is a fantastic ring and the atmosphere is also good." This is a tantalising indication of their potential firepower in the epic battle for GCL honours.
The Shanghai Swans duo will go into Saturday’s showdown in prime position as last to go with the huge benefit of getting to see the rest of the field jump first. Just like in 2019 the home team Madrid In Motion of father and son duo secured a strong result for the local crowd. Third went to current ranking leaders Valkenswaard United where Peder Fredricson and Marcus Ehning paired up once again and finished with just the 4 faults.
GCL Madrid saw Spanish designer Santiago Varela Ullastres create a tough but fair flowing course to test the world’s best teams. Poles fell all around the arena but in particular, the delicate plank going into a double was extremely easy to knock.
Drawn first to go was Valkenswaard United who are the current ranking leaders after their win in Doha. Peder Fredricson and H&M Christian K picked up an early four faults as he got too deep to the plank putting the pressure straight on Marcus if they wanted to retain their lead after this second leg. Marcus Ehning and Misanto Pret A Tout had the tightest rollbacks and kept the team on just 4 faults as he took the inside line to the final fence leaving them to finish in third with a time of 143.05 seconds.
The German duo of Christian Kukuk and Philipp Weishaupt stepped up to centre stage with Mumbai and Coby. Christian Kukuk had a costly fault at the first fence putting them on the back foot right from the start. The pair then made the course look easy but finished 2 seconds outside of the time allowed with 5 faults overall. It wasn’t meant to be for Philipp either as they had a fault on the GCL fence and the GC Prague Playoffs fence. They finished with 13 faults and over 10 seconds slower than Valkenswaard United in 153.09 seconds.
Yuri Mansur and the slightly shorter striding horse Vitiki had to open up to the combination causing A and B to fall leaving Constant to do some damage control if they wanted to stay in with a chance of a podium spot tomorrow. Constant van Paesschen and Isidoor van de Helle thrived in this arena and interestingly he took the outside turn between 1 and 2. This cost them as he picked up a time fault leaving the Falcons on 9 faults in 154.16 seconds.
The Shanghai Swans brought out two heavyweight riders in Christian Ahlmann and Max Kühner - both riders on form at the moment. Up first Ahlmann and Take A Chance On Me Z cruised round making it look effortless. Picking up the pace Max Kühner and the fresh Vancouver Dreams also finished on a spotless clear round to help produce the only double clear of the competition in a quick time of 144.77 seconds and take pole going into tomorrow’s final.
St Tropez Pirates
The brand new combination of Pieter Devos and Kannabis van de Bucxtale showed their lack of experience together as they got unbalanced in the middle of the double knocking it down and passing 4 faults over to his teammate. It quickly unravelled for Olivier Robert and Vangog du Mas Garnier the 12 year old grey getting strong to the fences and Olivier working hard to keep it smooth. The pair picked up 16 faults and the Pirates fell to the bottom of the scoreboard with a total of 20 faults.
It wasn’t meant to be for Sergio Alvarez Moya and Valdocco des Caps as two poles fell in quick succession putting them on the backfoot. Another 9 faults were added to the score as Marc Houtzager and the well known Sterrehof's Dante N.O.P. was off form today putting their total score up to 18 faults.
Ellen Whitaker and Arena Uk Winston put in a valiant effort for the Miami Celtics, but the team fell just outside the top ten as they picked up 8 faults. Flying at pace into the GC fence caused Mohamed Talaat to have the first part of the double down with Darshan so they picked up 12 faults and had an anxious wait to see how the rest of the field would do.
The youngest man to ever feature on a GCL team Max Wachman made his debut on Lazzaro Delle Schiave. Playing it safe and taking the outside turns along with two back rails falling meant they picked up 9 faults and passed the pressure over to trainer Cian O'Connor. Looking a strong choice for the team on Cadiz an unlucky pole and time fault put them on 14 overall with plenty to do in tomorrow’s second round.
It was a disappointment for Hamburg Giants as Bart Bles and Suus Kuyten clocked up the faults. Bart Bles picked up 5 faults with the big striding Fernando- H as the plank came tumbling down before Kuyten added a further 10 with Alfa Jordan to put the team on a score of 15 overall.
Madrid in Motion
Home city team Madrid in Motion benefitted from a fairy tale draw, but had all the pressure on their shoulders to deliver in front of their local fans. First to enter the arena was experienced combination of Eric van der Vleuten and Wunschkind, and as the shadows lengthened across the grass arena the pair pulled out all the stops to jump clear but pick up a single time fault. Passing the reins onto son Maikel van der Vleuten and his bay mare Beauville Z. The pair powered around the course, flying to the finish clear and slotting into second place just behind Shanghai Swans.
Making her GCL debut Jodie Hall Mcateer flew around the arena in a quick time but picking up 8 faults on the way with her top horse Salt'n Peppa. Anchorman Eric Lamaze piloted one of his top horses Fine Lady, the 18 year old bay jumping her heart out for the Canadian rider for just 4 faults round Santiago Varela Ullastres well designed course.
The Monaco Aces would trial a new combination with Billy Twomey and Chat Botte E.D first to go. The new recruit for the 2021 season held it together and delivered the clear proving his worth to the team. Hoping to also finish on a clean sheet, young gun Jeanne Sadran kept the team on the sharp end of the grid for tomorrow just having one unlucky pole and time fault putting them in 5th overall.
The last GCL Madrid winners, the London Knights brought out two serious charges in Martin Fuchs with Conner and Ben Maher making the return with Explosion W. First to go Martin gave Conner a brilliant ride, the big bay turning inside out to jump the fences for him. A solid clear meant that Ben would have to jump fast and clear to put the team on pole position for Saturday's showdown. Explosion looked keen and fresh with Ben letting him find his rhythm around the 1.55m course. A light touch meant a pole came tumbling down and the team pushed back to 4th place going into tomorrow with a time of 144.14 seconds.
New York Empire
Daniel Bluman and Gemma W were the first to take to the arena for New York Empire. The mare looked fresh, but Daniel managed her brilliantly despite it not being their day and finished with 9 faults in total. Passing the baton to Scott Brash on Hello Jefferson a horse who has produced plenty of clears on the Championship. They couldn’t keep a clean sheet today and landed the team in 12th place with 13 faults carried over to tomorrow.
The Vikings put forward a young team with consistent Evelina Tovek and Winnetou de la Hamente Z taking the reins first. Watched on by U25 teammate Teddy Vlock, the pair brought home 8 faults passing the pressure to Teddy. Riding Volnay du Boisdeville the pair took the tough course in their stride, powering over the fences but rolling a rail causing the Vikings to finish down the order on 12 faults.
The final team to go was the Paris Panthers, fielded a wealth of experience from Harrie Smolders and Dolinn but a fence fell, putting the team straight onto 4. Nayel Nassar knew only a clear would do on Igor van de Wittemoere to help the team stay in touch ahead of Saturday’s showdown, but their hopes tumbled and two fences fell. The team would finish on 12 faults and in 10th place.
The teams now look to Saturday’s GCL Madrid conclusion, with the action kicking off at 15.20 local time. The full class will be streamed on GCTV along with a live studio from 14:45 with expert analysis, commentary and rider interviews in the build-up to the second leg of the Championship race.