The power pairing of world number one Peder Fredricson on H&M All In and Edwina Tops-Alexander with Fellow Castlefield propelled Valkenswaard United to victory in the 2021 GCL overall season Championship with drama until the final seconds in Šamorín, Slovakia.
After a rollercoaster season, Valkenswaard United delivered today with a podium place and most importantly finished ahead of Shanghai Swans to secure their second GCL title win and become the most successful GCL team over the competition's 5-year life span.
Dominating the majority of the series this year United finished 13 points ahead of Shanghai Swans, with a total of 309 points this year. Paris Panthers secured third in the Championship with 276 points, with London Knights just hanging onto their fourth place meaning they too will fast-track to the semi-finals in the GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs in November.
The dramatic lights, music and atmosphere provided one of the greatest stages for top-level show jumping as the world’s top riders and horses competed in the GCL Finals for the first time at the X-Bionic Sphere.
Locals and visitors filled the grandstands and cheered on the teams with a standing ovation as Valkenswaard United lifted the trophy above their heads. Uliano Vezzani produced a masterpiece of a course, featuring a tricky combination set down the long side, delicate verticals, an eye-catching wavy plank as a dogleg to w huge GCL oxer to finish.
It was all about big names, big risks and big guns as United fielded their top horses in their bid to seize the GCL Championship.
Peder Fredricson said: "We like a bit of excitement, it kept us on edge the whole way but today was super exciting and we are really happy we won. I was very lucky that Edwina came in after me and made a clear round."
Edwina Tops-Alexander added: "I am so happy with the final result. As we all know my result last week with the teams was not great so I shook everything up and now I put it back in place. It’s management that helped us win, and we have the best riders in the world on this team, it is a privilege for me to be with these riders."
The third rider for the team in Samorin Marcus Ehning smiled: "I had a much more relaxed weekend than these two but these two did it amazing and it was exciting to watch. We started very well in Doha already and we were super consistent and this year was our year."
Shanghai Swans were first up to tackle the course in the championship battle. German Christian Ahlmann entered the arena on board the stunning black Dominator 2000 Z with a serious look on his face. Knowing only a clear would keep them in contention and put pressure on United he set off at a flowing pace. Keeping inside the time allowed, leaving all the fences up Ahlmann soared home pleased to execute his plan. Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Indiana also delivered the goods leaving the team on their overnight score of 9 faults and a long wait to see if they had done enough to overtake United.
Valkenswaard United had one pole in hand on the Shanghai Swans going into today’s season Final. First to go Peder Fredricson made a horse change onto his Olympic champion H&M All In, flying around the arena they looked on track for a fast clear until the first part of the red double came crashing down meaning Tops-Alexander couldn’t make any mistakes. With every breath held, the pair of Edwina and Fellow Castlefield looked in perfect harmony, under extreme pressure and a final swish of the tail cleared the last oxer to secure the championship win for the team.
In the battle for the fourth spot in the championships rankings with Berlin Eagles, the London Knights couldn’t afford a pole today. Nicola Philippaerts was piloting Katanga v/h Dingeshof again looking for redemption after 8 faults in round 1. They produced a breathtaking round - keeping the team on their overnight score. Team anchor Ben Maher and the phenomenal Explosion W gave the Berlin Eagles even more room after the second part of the Longines double fell bringing the team total up to 12 faults and leaving a nervous wait to see what the Eagles would do.
Making no horse or rider changes the Berlin Eagles fielded the great Ludger Beerbaum first on the stunning grey Mila. They kept a flowing rhythm around the arena, securing a clear for the team and giving Weishaupt more room. But there was heartache when Weishaupt looked to be on for a foot perfect clear until the final two fences fell and the team slid down the order handing the final spot to fast track to the GCL Super Cup Semi-Finals to London Knights.
Separate from the Championship decider Scandinavian Vikings duo of Frank Schuttert with Lyonel and Henrik von Eckermann on King Edward won the Final leg of the season in GCL Samorin. Prague Lions’ duo of Niels Bruynseels riding Delux van T & L and Jur Vrieling with Long John Silver claimed second place while Championship winners Valkenswaard United rounded off the podium in style.
It was a sensational day of world-class action as the 2021 season race came to a close in front of a full house at Šamorín. GCL now looks ahead to the GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs 18 - 21 November where fans will witness a show jumping spectacle.