01 March 2024

Who will stop Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian from scoring a hat trick?

Who will stop Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian from scoring a hat trick?

With stage 1 of the new Global Champions League Season upon us and the 14 teams announced, the question of which team(s) will challenge the 2022 and 2023 champions for the title this year arises. Well, there are more contenders than you might think.

But before delving into detail about those teams, it might be a good idea to reflect on how Riesenbeck International powered by Kinglsand Equestrian won the title, not so much in terms of performances but more in terms of team structure and planning.


Kukuk as the Anchor

 Last year, the team completed 58 rounds over the entire season, and 23 (or 39%) were produced by Christian Kukuk. That puts Kukuk just behind Henrik von Eckermann, who rode 25 rounds over the course of the 2023 championship. Between Philipp Weishaupt and Philipp Schulze Tophoff, there were another 25 rounds completed, meaning that just these three riders are responsible for 82% of Riesenbeck’s rounds. All three riders have a clear round percentage of over 60%, with Weishaupt's 78.6% from last year being the second-highest in the GCL’s history. Only Malin Baryard Johnson delivered a mind-blowing 80% rate in 2019 when riding for the Berlin Eagles, who were rebranded Riesenbeck International two years later.

 So, with just three key riders supported by Patrick Stühlmeyer and Eoin McMahon, Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian only used five riders from their roster, not fielding Ludger Beerbaum nor Jane Richard. This incredible dedication to the format is key, as the team is relatively low on rider power compared to other teams, some of which fielded up to seven riders across the season in their line-ups.


Horse Power and Horse Spread

With an incredible load on just three riders, it is worth looking at the horse data. Kukuk’s 23 rounds were spread over Mumbai and Just Be Gentle, Weishaupt’s 17 came from Zineday with his spectacular 7/7 clear, Coby, and Krokant, and Schulze Tophoff could count on Clemens and Carla. This basically indicates that the key riders on the team need to have at least two fit horses with a minimal 50% clear round rate at the 1.60m level. The fact that over those 58 rounds, the team has used no more than nine horses is even more surprising when looking at the numbers of their rivals, the Paris Panthers. As runners-up, they brought 24 horses to the league last year, nearly triple the number of Riesenbeck.

And to be clear, Paris’s number of horses entered last year is the highest in the league, proving that performing in the league is not achieved by one recipe only. But on average, teams have around 16 horses in their stables. However, it is the spread of those horses over the riders in the team that is crucial. No team benefits from a rider with six horses that can go clear at 1.60m if the others don’t have more than one.


The Danger

On the other hand, in the spread of horses lies the danger for Riesenbeck International. Their proven formula only works if all horses and riders remain fit. Last year, they handled the injuries of both Ludger Beerbaum and Philipp Weishaupt very well, though both injuries occurred at the ‘best time’ possible. Early in the season when the stages didn’t follow each other back to back, there was time to heal and recover without other teams stealing away points. With the Olympic Games in Paris on the calendar, it will also be a difficult balancing act for Riesenbeck to have Mila, Zineday, and Mumbai or Just Be Gentle available for the team. Should that balance be off, the team is suddenly much thinner in horses.


The Challengers

With 32 horses fit for GCL classes and 22 fit for Round 2 heights, the Shanghai Swans must be considered as co-favorites for the title. After a season when everything that could go wrong actually went wrong, 2024 introduces itself as the season of vengeance. Christian Ahlmann has added Classic Dream and Blueberry to his string, Max Kühner has last year’s youngsters more matured, Sadran is riding on the crest of a wave lately and seemingly has shed the cocoon of shyness, producing impressive clears over the winter season. Pius Schwizer has been brought back to the team with a large string of horses, and Deusser is expected to resurface after a tough year in 2023. Also, Sam Hutton presents himself at the start of the season with Melusiena who has made significant improvements over the winter.

Last year, Madrid In Motion was more or less a team of five, with Eric van der Vleuten just competing in a single round and the team relying mostly on son Maikel. The addition of Ioli Mytilineou and her perfect 2023 season with three clears in GCL and three clears in LGCT, as well as Roger-Yves Bost who brings three horses to the team including Cassius Clay VDV Z who has a 60% clear round rate at 1.60m over the last 365 days, makes the team seem much more balanced and equipped for the upcoming season.

Rome Gladiators, powered by, could not keep up with the teams that fought for the Top 4 at the end of the season, but with signings like Lorenzo de Luca, Laura Kraut, and Marco Kutsher, they have added rider power and horse power to their roster. And who doesn’t remember the revival of the Scandinavian Vikings in 2023, co-led by Richard Howley? Well, for some reason, Howley also made a transfer to the Gladiators, and come money time, Howley is the man to send in when results are on the line.

As I write this article, the Prague Lions, powered by the Czech Equestrian Team, were also to be considered as part of the teams that have what it takes to fight for the Top 4 and maybe the championship. Last year’s enigma with their underperformances in Round 2 and overperformances in Round 2 - they were the best Round 2 team - had signed Jur Vrieling, and the Dutchman was listed with some interesting horses to start the season. But at the moment of writing, SF Equestrian, the owners of Vrieling’s mare Griffin van de Heffinck, announced the sale of the mare, meaning that before the season had started, the team has to deal with an upset already.


The Newcomers

Plenty of eyes are on the Cannes Star, powered by Iron Dames, as this is the first all-female team in the Global Champions League. But more than that, they have power. Katrin Eckermann is a two-time Grand Prix winner, as is Sanne Thijssen. Janne Frederieke Meyer-Zimmerman stood twice on an LGCT podium and carries experience from two seasons as a Shanghai Swan. Sophie Hinners, Nathalie Dean, and Kim Emmen bring at least two 1.60m horses to the team, making them in numbers a squad that should be confident to fight for the Top 4.

In Doha, teams cannot lose the championship, and 14 stages are to come after, but the numbers going into the season do give a good indicator of the strength at the start. Just as they give an insight into the weaknesses at the start. Team managers might already have their eye on the transfer window, opening and closing between the Paris and London stages. Until then, the 84 riders on the rosters will decide the first part of the championship.

My vision is clear. Only the best for the best.
Jan Tops - Founder & President