Aces Light Up GCL Cascais, Estoril
Photo: GCL / Stefano Grasso
The Monaco Aces’ combination of Julien Epaillard with Virtuose Champeix and Laura Kraut with Curious George powered to pole position today as Cascais, Estoril was lit up for the ninth round of action in the GCL Championship.
Fittingly it was the Aces who came up trumps under balmy Portuguese evening skies, the beautiful grass arena situated just down the road from Estoril’s famous casino which is thought to be where Ian Fleming came up with the idea for Casino Royale.
With four teams on a double clear this evening, and one on a single time fault, Saturday’s showdown already promises to be an electrifying competition in the fight for the overall rankings. Hot on the Aces’ heels are Valkenswaard United’s pairing of Marcus Ehning and Bertram Allen, with Paris Panthers’ duo of Darragh Kenny and Gregory Wathelet taking third tonight.
But the Aces were the fastest combined time today, and Julien Epaillard gave a very honest review of his round: "I tried to make a clear [for the team] first of all, but my horse was spooky today. I had little control and that’s why I was so fast!"
Teammate Laura Kraut agreed that the lights were a crucial element in today’s competition: "I was mainly concerned about jumping clear. My horse was a little spooky too with the light but we jumped clear and here we are! They made a nice first round today to get the horses used to the lighting at night. Hopefully the horses will be just as good on Saturday and we can keep our position."
Julien revealed the Aces would stay with the same game-plan for the crucial second round: "We’ll stay with the same plan. We’ve made half of the job, and so we need to do the rest now!"
Frank Rothenberger set a forward, flowing course making full use of the beautiful galloping grass arena which is used only once a year exclusively for this event. A huge triple bar followed by a gappy red and white GCL oxer required scope and power in equal measure, before horses were brought back to clear the easy to roll pole. The final line saw a challenging Cascais double set before a wide brown and white liverpool lined oxer, positioned towards the in-gate and requiring the horses to keep their eye on the ball. The tight time allowed of 82 seconds would also play a fundamental role in this evening’s competition.
Here’s how the action unfolded…
Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo was first to go for the Chantilly Pegasus with G&C Arrayan, galloping to the first two fences with gusto and determination. But one down for the fiery combination put the team on four faults before passing the baton to Roger-Yves Bost and Sunshine du Phare. But the duo looked unsettled from the off, the second fence falling and Bosty doing well to keep his seat after they missed their stride. They managed to pull it together around the second half of the course, but the team would tumble to a total of 12 faults.
St Tropez Pirates
New face on the GCL this season, Lucia Le Jeune Vizzini would make her debut in Cascais, Estoril with Loro Piana Filou de Muze. They took on the tough challenge with care and precision, finishing clear to put the Pirates in with a strong chance. Olivier Robert was next to take on the track with Vivaldi des Meneaux. But it came undone at the Cascais double, the front bar of the oxer rolling as they came in a little too deep. The final fence, the GC Prague Playoffs plank also tumbled, the team finishing tonight on a score of 8 faults.
Last year’s winners here in Portugal, the Paris Panthers kept their duo of Darragh Kenny and Gregory Wathelet. First up was Darragh with the 9 year old Classic Dream, and they kept cool and steady heads to finish clear and put a zero score on the board. Gregory opted to ride top grey stallion MJT Nevados S, this the fifth appearance for the Belgian rider for the team this season. And they would deliver, the first double clear of the evening so far and with a combined time of 156.94s.
Bart Bles kept his horse Gin D active and moving across the arena. But the delicate GCL oxer fell after they opened up for the galloping triple bar, Bart just unable to get the keen horse back in time to clear the fence. Jose Alfredo Hernandez Ortega and Grupo Prom Isidor Carcaletto had the first fence down, before a lucky rub at the triple bar. But the GCL oxer following was quick to fall, and an additional time fault meant they would see the team tumbling to a score of 15 overall.
The overall ranking leaders the Shanghai Swans fielded a new combination for this leg of the Championship, with Pius Schwizer and Kim Emmen teaming up for the first time. First to go Pius and Living The Dream tackled the course with accuracy and bravery, the experienced duo taking the steadier, slower route for the team today. They finished clear, passing the baton to the U25 rider Kim who would make her debut for the Swans this evening. With Teavanta II C Z the Dutch rider took on the challenge of today’s course, the long bodied mare flying over the fences with ease. But they paddled at the penultimate liverpool oxer, kicking out the fence and then picking up a painful time fault to put them onto a total of 5.
Marcus Ehning and Bertram Allen were the experienced pairing for the former title holders. With two of the top horses in their string in Funky Fred and Molly Malone V, it was clear the team were looking for a strong result this weekend. And it paid off, with Marcus checking the flashy chestnut horse before the final line, giving him as much space and time to clear the double. They finish clear, despite a slightly awkward angle to the finish, before Bertram and Molly Malone V would kick start their charge for a team double clear. As Marcus watched on they executed their round flawlessly, keeping the team on a zero score and with a faster time than the Panthers. The delighted duo high-fived as they exited the arena, with a long wait to see if they would finish tonight on top.
Harry Charles and ABC Quantum Cruise had an early pole after adding another stride, the first part of the oxer falling as they came in too close. But they delivered the rest of the course to perfection, handing the reins to William Whitaker and RMF Cadeau de Muze. They too went for a steadier round, with the pair picking up a costly time fault and dropping the team down to a score of five, and behind the Swans on time.
Geir Gulliksen was first to take centre stage with Edesa S Banjan, but a fault coming out of the double set along the grandstand would put the team on four faults. Christian Ahlmann and the playful grey stallion Clintrexo Z would choose to ride a steadier track, the experienced pair delivering another clear for the team, and keeping them on a score of 4 overall.
Jane Richard Philips and Victorio des Grez got a little sticky in the double of verticals, but the Swiss rider was able to use all the horse’s scope to see them through clear. The petite rider had to steady her keen horse to the final fence, but they were able to finish clear, with Abdel Saïd next to go for the team. With determination written all over his face, Abdel and the 10 year old Venise du Reverdy took on the first part of the course with energy and daring. The bouncy horse sprung off the grass arena, but fence six, the gappy oxer, fell after the French mare kicked out, dropping the team to a score of 4 but crucially faster than the Vikings.
Julien Epaillard and Virtuose Champeix had a tough start, the liver chestnut horse just taking a while to settle into a rhythm. But the Frenchman managed the hot horse perfectly, working hard to keep the team on clear and home with a very fast time. Laura Kraut dared Curious George around the course, the little bay horse keeping his momentum throughout the expansive arena. They drifted down the final line, but were able to bring it back to deliver another clear, with a combined time of 150.88s and crucially straight to the top of the leaderboard.
In their bright red jackets, the Knights fielded experienced pairing of Ben Maher and Martin Fuchs for this round of action. First to go Martin selected grey mare Chica B Z for the first round in Cascais, Estoril, the horse jumping her heart out for the Swiss rider. They added a stride to the formidable triple bar and were able to keep a steady turn to the next troublesome GCL oxer. They finished clear, and with a good time to put the pressure on teammate and team anchor Ben’s shoulders. With top horse Explosion W, Ben let the chestnut gelding find his natural pace. They finished clear, the fourth team to do so far, but would slip behind the Panthers on time.
Niels Bruynseels and Utamaro D Ecaussines were the first to go for the Lions, the enthusiastic horse galloping to the fences and stretching over the fences to produce another clear. Wilm Vermeir would bring out Iq van het Steentje, his top horse, for the ninth round of action on the Championship. They would get a little hesitant to the delicate, gappy oxer set but they cleared it to take on the following triple bar with ease. The time allowed would bite once again, with one given to Wilm and meaning the Lions would finish today on a score of 1 overall.
The second fence fell for Bronislav Chudyba and Lester IX, putting the Falcons on the back foot. A rattle at the triple bar before the second part of the Cascais double would put the team on a score of 8. U25 rider Mike Kawai was next to go with the 11 year old Kahlua, but despite their strong start they lost their balance at the double, Mike unseated and tumbling off. Both horse and rider walked out of the arena unharmed, but it would mean the Falcons would be eliminated.
U25 rider Emil Hallundbaek produced a foot-perfect clear for the Eagles with Chalisco, the young Danish rider a key player in the team’s success so far. Christian Kukuk piloted to horse Limonchello NT, his first CSI5* competition after a well-deserved rest. And the pair looked fresher than ever, the blue-eyed stallion leaping through the course beautifully. But they too paddled at the penultimate oxer, the liverpool catching the horse’s attention and the fence falling. A time fault to add would drop the team to a score of 5, but within touching distance of a podium on Saturday.
New York Empire
Keen to redeem after their disappointment last week at GCL Stockholm, the New York Empire team would field Scott Brash and Daniel Bluman again. With different horses, Scott was first to go with the 10 year old Hello Shelby, the dark bay gelding powerful to the fences. But they couldn’t quite make the distance to the triple bar, the back bar rolling to put the team onto four faults. Daniel and the nine year old Colestina H took on the track keenly, the horse looking a touch unsettled in the early part of the course. But the second part of the Cascais double came down, and yet another time fault would put the team on a score of 9 this evening.
Madrid in Motion
Final team to go Madrid in Motion would field Mark McAuley with Miebello first of all. But the first part of the initial double fell, putting the team on a score of four. Next up was Eduardo Alvarez Aznar with top horse Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot, the horse that helped the team secure the GCL Super Cup last December at the GC Prague Playoffs. And the experienced pair delivered again, finishing clear and keeping the team on a score of four faults overall.
The conclusion for GCL Cascais, Estoril, will kick off on Saturday with all the action streamed live and exclusively on GC TV.
For the full results, please click here.