Valkenswaard United duo Edwina Tops-Alexander and home hero Peder Fredricson defeated pole sitters London Knights in an exhilarating battle at GCL Stockholm Presented by Fastator.
There was a fantastic atmosphere in Sweden’s historic Olympic Stadium as today’s sporting drama unfolded in front of a limited but hugely enthusiastic crowd of 500 spectators.
Unexpectedly for the London Knights team, Ben Maher and Olivier Philippaerts could not holdon to their lead in today’s GCL showdown, dropping off the podium as another shock result played out under enormous pressure in the fifth stage of the season.
United put in a flawless performance, taking their third win of the season as they continue their charge on the overall GCL ranking - a thumping 29 points ahead of their nearest rivals.
Second today went to last week's winners Monaco Aces’ impressive duo of Billy Twomey and Jérôme Guery, with Philipp Weishaupt and Ludger Beerbaum taking the third spot on the podium for Berlin Eagles.
Smiling in front of his home fans Fredricson explained: "It really is great to pick up these points, we have had a good season so far, I am really, really happy to be in Valkenswaard United and couldn’t have a better teammate."
A delighted Edwina said "It feels amazing to be here in Sweden riding with one of the best riders in the world Peder, it is a big privilege for me and it is just amazing to be at an event with fantastic spectators and great sport."
In the overall GCL ranking, Valkenswaard United have now extended their lead and sit on 132 points. The Shanghai Swans hold on to second place with 103 points, just 6 points ahead of Monaco Aces with 97 on their tally.
As the sun started its slow descent across the arena, the atmosphere could be cut with a knife as the world’s best horses and riders fought with every ounce of their being for their teams. Paying tribute to the young talented Irish eventer 15 year old Tiggy Hancock, who sadly passed away after a fall training earlier this week, all Irish riders rode with a yellow armband while competing today.
The joker fence today in Uliano Vezzani’s course was unexpectedly the first fence, which fell the most throughout the competition. Vezzani gave riders the options of inside or outside turns, knowing that the combined time could play a huge part in the results of the close-knit field today.
First rider for the Celtics, Jorge Matte Capdevila kept his mount Destiny van Schore for the second round of action in Stockholm. Keen to redeem after their faults yesterday, Jorge opted for a slower, careful approach to the course today. But the GCL oxer fell along with the wide liverpool towards the end of the course - adding another 8 faults to their overnight score of 32 faults. Johnny Pals made a horse change to Fernando, they had 4 faults to bring the team total up to huge 44 faults in Stockholm.
The home team didn’t have luck on their side today as young gun Evelina Tovek picked up an unusual 8 faults on her talented mare Dalila de la Pomme. Knowing only a clear round would help the team Henrik von Eckermann set off at quite a pace on King Edward and rode a flawless fast clear to keep the team on 28 faults overall.
Madrid In Motion
There was heartache for Maikel van der Vleuten and Kamara van't Heike when the first fence fell immediately putting them on the back foot for the rest of the round. The drama continued when the pair were unsettled coming into the GCL double unseating Maikel and eliminating the team straight away. Riding as an individual Michael G Duffy cruised Lapuccino round to finish on an unlucky 4 faults after the back rail fell off the Agria oxer.
Bart Bles and Kriskras DV were the first to face the track for the Hamburg Giants, and the Dutch rider placed his horse with pinpoint precision ahead of every fence. They produced the clear round needed for the team, handing the baton to teammate Rodrigo Giesteira Almeida and Delvaux. It was just the one down for the Portuguese rider as the Giants finished with 20 faults overall.
On great form recently Bassem Mohammed and Gunder got unsettled in their rhythm costing them both parts of the GCL double and immediately knocking them down the order. Trying to make up time Yuri Mansur cut the corner to the Agri oxer but Vitiki couldn't quite stretch enough, rolling it and adding 4 faults to the already large total to complete with 28 faults.
Making her season debut on the Swans this weekend, American Margie Goldstein-Engle sped around the arena and took all the inside turns on the powerful bay Dicas. The combination showed their class and experience riding a needed clear round for the team. It all dramatically changed when one of the longest standing members of the Swans, Pius Schwizer, had the first two fences down on WH Delilah as well as the penultimate fence causing the team to drop right down the order and finish on an unusual 24 faults.
Flying over the fences the homebred Bud Spencer looked on track for a beautiful clear with Sven Schlüsselburg, but it fell apart in the latter part of the course picking up 8 faults and handing the pressure over to the youngest rider in GCL Max Wachman. The first fence fell for the Irishman shortly followed by another as the fresh gelding Lazzaro Delle Schiave knocked it with his front feet. This landed the team on 28 faults and in the bottom end of the scoreboard.
St Tropez Pirates
The shadows caused trouble at the first fence once again as world number one Daniel Deusser also had it down on Casallvano. They finished with an unexpected 8 faults before handing over to Dani G. Waldman and Queensland E who gave it everything they could to finish with a quick smooth clear round and keeping the team on 16 faults, but in a slow time of 147.33 seconds.
New York Empire
It was a long way to go for Denis Lynch and GC Chopin's Bushi with an early 16 faults in just the first six fences on the course putting New York Empire straight out of contention today. Empire then brought in team anchor Scott Brash who produced the goods once again on Hello Jefferson meaning the team finished on 24 faults and just outside the top 10 today.
Making no horse or rider changes the team tactics paid off for the Eagles as they pulled off a double clear today, keeping the team on their overnight score of 8. Ludger Beerbaum and Mila opted for a slightly slower round forcing Philipp Weishaupt and Coby to go flat out from start to finish to make sure their overall time was still in contention. This proved a perfect strategy and they finished the fastest of the teams on 8 faults and took the final place on the podium.
Both members of the Cascais Charms opted for fresh horse power today as Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo brought out his top horse Evita SG Z to tackle the twisty course. They sped round the Olympic Stadium for just one down before U25 rider Jodie Hall McAteer stepped up on Salt'n Peppa. They also picked up four faults taking the team total to 16 but in a fast time of 141.3 seconds to take 7th place overall.
Jérôme Guery cruised the young grey gelding Great Britain V round taking the track in his stride delivering the all important clear and keeping the Aces in contention. Billy Twomey and Chat Botte E.D then delivered a flawless performance ensuring the team would stay on their overnight score of four faults and picking up second place on the podium.
Jur Vrieling continued his clear round streak on Fiumicino van de Kalevallei as the combination flew round the course with ease and gave teammate Kellnerova a leg up. Anna Kellnerova made a horse change to Catch me If You Can Old her top horse, knowing only a clear could keep them in touch for a podium today. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and they added 4 faults to the Lions total as they finished just shy of the podium in fourth place with 8 faults in 144.59 seconds.
Changing onto fresh horsepower Nayel Nassar and Darry Lou set off for a slow and steady clear. The tactic looked like it was going to pay off until a late fault added four to their score meaning Gregory Wathelet had to go flat out to kept the Panthers on the podium. Gregory also had one down on Picobello Full House ter Linden Z bringing the tally up to 8 faults and finishing in 5th overall.
The crowd cheered as Swedish champion Peder Fredricson entered the arena on his striking grey Catch me not S. The pair cleared the fences but was lucky at times with a few rolls as they powered around the arena. Peder managed the hot horse perfectly, the duo finishing clear today and passing the pressure onto Edwina Tops-Alexander and Fellow Castlefield. Needing the clear for the team Edwina and Fellow Castlefield had a sticky start to the course but kept their head and brought home yet another clear for Valkenswaard United to claim top spot for the third time this year.
Also keeping the exact same line up as round one and feeling confident in their horse power Ben Maher and Ginger-Blue took centre stage in front of the silent arena. Under huge pressure, the pair calmly made their way around the arena, but the lightest of touches meant they added four faults to their total, handing the win the Valkenswaard United straight away. Olivier Philippaerts then had two down including the last part of the tricky Longines treble on his stallion H & M Extra, agonisingly knocking them off the podium again. The Knights finished with 12 faults and dropped 5 places to sixth place.
The Championship now heads south to the city of lights, Paris, for the 6th round of action next week.
My vision is clear. Only the best for the best.