Eagles Rise To GCL Chantilly Win As Celtics Take Ranking Lead
Photo: GCL / Stefano Grasso
In a thrilling GCL Chantilly, there was edge-of-the-seat action to the final fence after Berlin Eagles’ pairing of Ludger Beerbaum and Christian Kukuk kept cool heads under enormous pressure to convert their pole position into the team’s first win of the season.
In an intense ranking shake up, the Miami Celtics’ 4th place today has catapulted the team to the overall lead, where they now sit on 221 points. Shanghai Swans have dropped to second, now on a tally of 218 and the London Knights have regained third where they now sit on 209 overall.
Speaking after their win an elated Ludger said: “With only two teams clear from yesterday for us it was important to make two clear rounds today. Valkenswaard [United] put pressure on as they were so fast, and we knew with our horses we couldn't match that, so had to finish clear. There was a bit of pressure towards the end, but it paid off. Christian’s round was absolutely first class and it gave me a comfortable and good feeling for my round."
Christian agreed the pressure was on but the win has helped bolster the morale of the team: “For sure [it’s up there in my top wins ever] - I’m super happy, I was looking forward to being on the podium, but now it’s the first time that we win, so it’s even better. It gives us motivation, it’s close in the rankings, so it’s not over and we’ll go with a good feeling in the next shows, so hopefully we can climb up [the rankings]."
The Eagles were the only team to finish with a completely clean score this weekend, taking the win from Valkenswaard United’s Marcus Ehning and Bertram Allen who put in a valiant effort aboard their top horses Comme Il Faut and Molly Malone V. Third went to London Knights after Emily Moffitt with Winning Good and Ben Maher with Explosion W produced a flawless finish to keep their overnight score of 4.
Uliano Vezzani’s course was a clever and technical challenge, with faults collected all around the arena. The galloping grass arena featured a triple combination set along the grandstand, a tall Longines plank and a delicate GC vertical set on a curving turn which caused plenty of problems in the first round. An imposing filler featuring the Royal Stables gave the horses something to look at, and saw a tricky final line with a GCL oxer, followed by a delicate liverpool-lined vertical to finish.
Here’s how the action unfolded…
Madrid in Motion
With a heavy overnight score of 24, Madrid in Motion made a strategic horse change with Michael G Duffy swapping from Chappo Chey to top gelding Lapuccino. First to go Mark McAuley was looking for redemption after his unusual 20 faults with Jasco vd Bisschop, but the first part of the double fell, another 4 added to their tally. The front rail of the RMC Sport oxer fell for Michael and Lapuccino, the team finishing today on 32 overall.
The Vikings also made a strategic change between rounds, pulling Leopold van Asten off the bench to replace Henrik von Eckermann. First to go was Christian Ahlmann with his LGCT Grand Prix of Paris winning horse Take A Chance On Me Z and the pair produced a flawless round, keeping the team on their overnight score of 16. Leopold stepped up with top mare VDL Groep Miss Untouchable, but the first part of the triple combination fell and the team would finish on 20 today.
Roger-Yves Bost was first to fly the flag for the home city team Chantilly Pegasus, changing his horses to compete with Vino d’Espinet today. But the first part of the grey double came down, another 4 faults added to the team score of 16. Francois Mathy Jr kept Uno de la Roque but they too fell short at the GCL oxer, the team tumbling to a total of 24 this week.
Both riders of the Giants elected to make a horse change today, with Lauren Hough competing on Paloma and Simon Delestre second to go and bringing out his grey superstar Filou Carlo Zimequest. Lauren attacked the course with her 13 year old mare, but there was heartache at the last as the delicate vertical fell and the team would tumble to 20 so far. Simon and Filou Carlo Zimequest soared around the course, the grey gelding making a beautiful shape over the fences. They rattled the GCL oxer but left all the fences up, keeping the team on their score of 20, and ahead of the Vikings on time.
The Lions made no horse or rider changes today, with Wilm Vermeir first to go with Iq van het Steentje. But an early fault at the delicate GC plank would put the team on the backfoot, before it started to come undone as the first part of the triple combination also fell. Marco Kutscher piloted top mare Chades of Blue, keen to finish clear to avoid the team falling behind on places. They took a tight line to the GCL oxer, but also had heartache at the last as the final fence fell, dropping the team to a score of 24 and well down the order.
St Tropez Pirates
Edwina Tops-Alexander kept with Veronese Teamjoy for this round of action, the bay mare leaving plenty of air above the fences. Redemption was the word of the day for the team after their disappointing 12 faults from round one, but Edwina pulled off a masterful clear to keep the team in with a chance. Pieter Devos made a horse change to his top mare Claire Z, but the final part of the triple combination fell, as did the RMC Sport oxer. The team would drop to 20 and behind both the Vikings and Giants.
Overall GCL ranking leaders the Shanghai Swans made one horse change, with Shane Sweetnam first to go with Indra van de Rude Heihoef, the 11 year old grey mare bouncing off the fresh green grass. Shane had to work hard in the triple combination, but after drifting to the final element they clipped the wing which toppled the fences. They had to stretch for the back bar of the skinny oxer and that too fell, the team plummeting to 16 faults. Pius Schwizer would keep his ride Living the Dream, and set off determined not to add any further faults to their tally. But the GCL oxer fell, and the team would drop to 20 too.
With an overnight score of 8, the Cannes Stars brought Jane Richard Philips off the bench for this round of action. First to go Margie Goldstein-Engle stuck with the big-striding Dicas, but the GC plank fell dropping the team to a tally of 12. The Royal Stables fence fell, as did the blue oxer, the team tumbling to a score of 20 today. Jane opted to ride Clipper du Haut du Roy, and they looked set to finish clear. But the final line saw them come unstuck as the GCL oxer fell and the final fence came down - they would drop to 28 overall.
The Falcons were another team to make no horse or rider changes, with Bronislav Chudyba first to go for the team on Lester IX. They kept cool heads under pressure to deliver yet another clear for the team - the first horse and rider to jump with zero faults across the two days of competition. Michael Whitaker brought out his 9 year old grey For Fun, but the mare just changed her canter lead in the final stride to the first fence, the Longines pole knocked out as they sought to regain their balance. Michael managed to settle the mare and picked up a steady rhythm for the rest of the course, the Falcons finishing on 9 faults overall.
First of the teams on an overnight score of 4 faults, the London Knights brought in team anchor Ben Maher and top horse Explosion W for this round of action. First to go was U25 talent Emily Moffitt who piloted her top gelding Winning Good. Emily produced a flawless performance in the first round, and the pair pulled out all the stops again to bring home another clear - passing the baton to Ben. With his chestnut gelding Explosion W already naturally faster across the ground, Ben guided the enthusiastic horse around the tough track. With their enviable consistency they too delivered the goods, finishing clear and keeping the team on their score of 4 overall.
New York Empire
There was disappointment at the first after Spencer Smith and Theodore Manciais punched out the Longines vertical. With the team now on 8 overall, they would slip behind the Knights, but with the final fence also tumbling the team would drop to a tally of 12. Scott Brash made a horse change to bring forward Hello Jefferson, the feisty 10 year old bay gelding. Scott kept his enthusiastic horse under complete control, allowing plenty of room and time to the fences, and it paid off - the pair finishing clear despite a lucky rub of the last. New York Empire would finish on 12 overall.
The Monaco Aces brought in their speed demon Julien Epaillard for this round of action in Chantilly, the flying Frenchman opting to ride his 10 year old chestnut stallion Virtuose Champeix. But the GC plank fell, putting the team behind the Knights already. The GC Prague Playoffs plank tumbled too, and the team would drop to a score of 12. Laura Kraut kept her 10 year old bay mare Fleurette for today’s competition, and their tactics paid off - the pair produced the clear and the team would stay on their score of 12 overall, but behind the New York Empire on their combined time.
The Panthers had a complete change up in their horse and rider roster today, with Gregory Wathelet first to go on top stallion MJT Nevados S. The impressive grey horse responded beautifully to Gregory’s requests, the pair finishing clear to keep the team on their overnight score of 4 faults. Darragh Kenny brought out his top horse Balou de Reventon for this crucial round, but the experienced combination had the GC plank down, the team dropping down to a total of 8 and behind the Knights.
Marcus Ehning kept with his formidable stallion Comme Il Faut, the 14 year old horse fresh and keen to the fences. They produced the clear, keeping the team on their overnight score of 4, and heaping the pressure on teammate Bertram Allen to finish fast and clear. Bertram made a horse change to Harley vd Bisschop, and kept the big striding dapple grey together to pull off a stunning clear, with the team a whole 10 seconds faster than the Knights with their combined time. They would shoot into the lead so far, with two teams left to go.
The Miami Celtics kept their complete horse and rider line-up for the second round of action, the first of two teams on a zero score. William Whitaker was first to go, with the slower-striding RMF Cadeau de Muze picking his way carefully around the course. But there was drama at the GCL oxer as the 11 year old bay stallion refused at the final moment. William circled round and jumped it cleanly, but collected 7 faults (4 plus 2 time faults) for his troubles. Michael Duffy knew he had to keep all the fences up for the team to be in any chance of a podium today for the Celtics, and he pulled out all the stops with Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars to keep the team on their score of 7 overall.
The final team to go, the Berlin Eagles also chose to keep their round one line-up for this crucial competition. Christian Kukuk was first to go with his big striding stallion Limonchello NT, the blue-eyed horse powering off the ground to clear the fences. They knew a double clear would bring them the win, and stuck to their steady and slower strategy, Christian giving the big horse as much time as possible to the fences. They played their part, finishing clear and passing the reins to Ludger Beerbaum with Cool Feeling. With all the pressure on their shoulders, Ludger kept a cool head to produce the clear - giving a thumbs up in delight as the Eagles flew to the win in Chantilly.
The Championship now looks to Berlin, Germany, for the 13th round of action on the 2019 season race.
Gerard Manzinali, President Chantilly Jumping: "It was good day for this competition and for the winner. It was a nice competition with many enthusiastic people, not too hot or too cold. Every year in Chantilly it is busy, this year we had around 5000 spectators today. Lots of support from the town and land, and every year there is a little bit more - it is fantastic."
Jan Tops, GCL Co-Founder: "It was nice to see how it turned out with the winning team being decided by the last rider and last fence. We can see how difficult it was here with only one team jumping clear. The standings after 12 legs are so close, I don’t know who is going to win. Still all of the first 8 teams are contenders to win the championship - that is what we all want to see. The Miami Celtics have been very consistent all year and just out of the podium today. They are only a few points ahead of the Swans and there is still 7 more events to go so anything is still possible."
Nicola Philippaerts, London Knights, 3rd place: "I think Ben and Emily did a fantastic job and we are slowly moving up the rankings. Both the horses jumped amazing but the season is quite long so we just try to plan well and hope for a few more podium places. The plan is always to get the best combinations out to shows. Emily has been jumping fantastic she is really moving up this year and Ben is always consistent."
Bertram Allen, Valkenswaard United, 2nd place: "Both horses are naturally very fast and we were coming from behind so we knew we had to go fast. We both had very good rounds and left the two teams ahead having to jump double clear to beat us. We had to settle for second. We knew what we had to do and we were both on our best horses at the moment who are naturally very fast and we were here for this class specifically so we are delighted."
Ludger Beerbaum, Berlin Eagles, 1st place: "Honestly we never though of chasing the time of Marcus and Bertram - they were simply too fast for us so all we had to do is jump clear. This doesn’t always work out like for the Miami Celtics and I was very lucky on the last fence. We are pleased with performance and only being 7th now in the rankings - really not many points away from the top 5. We are going forward to Berlin where it will be me and Christian again and we are positive and look forward to the next legs. Christian and me have never been consistent on both days this season. Malin has been the best performer and thanks to her we are in this position so for the second half of the season it is our turn to deliver clear rounds!"
Christian Kukuk, Berlin Eagles, 1st place: "We didn’t really talk about strategy, we knew if we stayed clear for sure we would end up in first or second. I saw Miami had 7 points on the board and I knew Valkenswaard had 4 but didn’t know how fast they were so my aim was just to go clear. My horse gave me a good feeling, a nice smooth round and it turned out good so we are happy. He was good in Monaco and in such different arenas - he just does his job. We go home with a good feeling and head to Berlin feeling motivated for our home show, hopefully we can grown in this feeling! Never change a winning team!"