London Knights Top GCL Ranking After Shanghai Stunner
Photo: GCL / Stefano Grasso
In a breath-taking display of power and precision the London Knights duo of Emily Moffitt and Ben Maher stormed to a GCL Shanghai win by 27 hundredths of a second, taking the lead in the overall ranking.
With enormous pressure on the shoulders of U25 rider Moffitt and teammate Maher, the pair were able to convert their pole position from Friday's first round into a win, with the drama coming right down to the wire as Maher galloped across the finish line on the Poden Farms-owned horse Explosion W. The scarlet team were able to stay ahead of a fierce attempt from Monaco Aces' Simon Delestre and Jerome Guery, who ultimately took second, and Chantilly Pegasus’ Roger-Yves Bost and Dayro Arroyave in third.
“I’m feeling pretty awesome,” said Moffitt, “it’s my first GCL [of 2018] and it’s really exciting. I think it’s even better as I’m [in a team] with my trainer, which brings extra excitement. The U25 riders are not expected to win, so this is really cool!”
Teammate Maher said: “We had a lead from Round 1 - I knew we had to jump clear and we managed to do it today."
Asked about the GC Prague Play Offs, he said “the prize money is huge this year, and there are a lot of good riders and horses, so we’re trying to keep up with our ranking - it’s very important for us to make it to Prague.
“Its a long season - we have great horses, Emily is riding amazing so hopefully we have a good season.”
Over 20,000 fans and guests were expected at the Shanghai Longines Global Champions Tour. The exceptional exhibition village was buzzing with atmosphere as families shopped and took photographs against spectacular floral displays, pop up boutiques and booths by Longines, Massimo Dutti and BMW. Fans went wild for autographs with the top international and local riders, and with high profile guests, including actress and Longines Ambassador of Elegance Lin Chi Ling.
Crowds took their seats for the GCL Shanghai final, powered by BMW, with spectators gasping and cheering at every fence, riding each stride with the world’s best athletes. Uliano Vezzani’s course was another technical test for the world’s best teams, with a choice of strides throughout the 1.55/1.60m course. Full power oxers required plenty of scope, and delicate verticals plenty of care, rolling at the lightest of touches. A Longines double off the corner, away from the in-gate picked up a few faults, and a treble combination towards the end of the course caught out many more.
London Knights’ combination of Ben Maher and U25 rider Emily Moffitt had all the pressure on their shoulders, as the leading team heading into the final and on a score of zero. With the starting order determined by the results from Friday’s Round 1, they would have a long wait, with the pressure ever-mounting, before they would take to the arena.
Those early in had faults all over the course, but the imposing treble looked to be the most challenging combination of the competition. Cascais Charms fielded their new, but very experienced recruit John Whitaker for this leg of the Championship, who delivered the first brilliant clear on Cassinis Chaplin. Just an unlucky time fault added to their overnight score of 13, and 12 more faults from U25 rider Philip Houston dropped the Charms down to a total of 26 overall and out of the running.
Ales Opartny of the Prague Lions delivered a foot-perfect clear for the team, with the eye catching VDL Fakir drawing cheers from the crowd. This was neatly followed up by teammate Niels Bruynseels and Cas de Liberte, who rode a beautiful clear, putting the Lions back in with a chance - carrying 12 faults from their first round, but with a nervous wait to see if they could rise up the order. Madrid in Motion also pulled a double clear out the hat, after Marc Houtzager and Michael G Duffy nailed the technical course, keeping the team on their score of 8 faults from Friday.
2017 Champions Montreal Diamonds had everything to do, lying in 14th after a tricky round for the team. U25 rider Jos Verlooy picked up the reins with Igor for the GCL Shanghai final, coming off the bench for Danielle Goldstein, but had an unlucky rail at the treble, visibly disappointed as he exited the arena. Anchor Harrie Smolders made his return to the Championship in Shanghai, and truly delivered, putting in a sublime clear with top stallion Don VHP Z, thrilling the crowd who gasped as he rattled a pole at the end of the treble - luck was on the Dutch rider’s side.
Despite the tough track, many riders pulled a clear out of the bag for their team, including Lorenzo de Luca of the Rome Gladiators, Christian Ahlmann of Scandinavian Vikings, Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani of Doha Fursan Qatar, Dayro Arroyave of Chantilly Pegasus, and Daniel Deusser of home city team Shanghai Swans.
St Tropez Pirates also shot up the leaderboard after a double clear from the two riders - Athina Onassis who just picked up a couple of time faults after a brilliant round on MHS Going Global, and Edwina Tops-Alexander on Inca Boy. Tops-Alexander kept her cool, managing the bouncy gelding beautifully - the elastic horse showing true class in the testing arena.
Ranking leaders Valkenswaard United carried through their four faults from Friday, but Alberto Zorzi - a rider on the team roster for three years - delivered a perfect round with Contanga, heaping the pressure on his teammate Jur Vrieling, who makes his debut on the GCL team series this season. The treble combination proved costly, with the experienced Dutch rider collecting a fence, adding a further four faults to the team total to keep them on eight.
Monaco Aces temporarily took over the lead, with best friends Simon Delestre and Jerome Guery delivering a masterclass of rounds, bringing them back up the order and into contention.
All eyes turned to the Berlin Eagles, one of the only two teams to head into the GCL Shanghai final on a zero score. First to go was Christian Kukuk and the blue-eyed Limoncello, but the troublesome treble caught them out, with the pair picking up 4 faults and putting them on a level-pegging with Monaco Aces. Olympic Champion Ludger Beerbaum had everything to do to keep the team on the podium, bringing out top mare Chiara for this crucial round. Making his return from injury last year, Beerbaum and Chiara showcased an enviable partnership, but were caught out on the final part of the treble and dropping the Eagles down to 8 faults overall.
Last to go London Knights knew a double clear would secure them the win, and the crowd held their breath as the scarlet coated Ben Maher and Emily Moffitt entered the arena. First to go was U25 talent Moffitt and Tipsy du Terral, the pair tactically going for a clear round over speed. The first part of the treble came down, heaping the pressure on the shoulders of Maher who would need to go clear, and fast, to better the Monaco Aces.
Indeed an explosion of speed and power from Maher and Explosion W is what was needed, and the pair pulled out all the stops, racing around the arena but taking care to keep all the fences up. Spectators held their breath as the duo headed towards the tricky treble, but Maher showed all his experience, mastering the strides perfectly and guiding the chestnut horse to the final two fences. Time was tight, but Maher cleared the final challenges, pushing through the finish line to stop the clock just 27 hundredths of a second ahead of Monaco Aces, and securing victory.
With the 30 points for the win, the Knights have shot to the top of the overall ranking leaderboad with a 62 points tally. Former Champions Valkenswaard United are tied on points, but without a win drop below the Knights in the overall leaderboard. The Prague Lions hold on to third, with a score of 56 points so far as the season now heads to Europe, for round four of the 2018 Championship race.
Press Conference Quotes
Jan Tops, Co-Founder GCL: "It was so close today. After the first day only two teams were clear and on the second day you see just how close it can get. The teams were really prepared for this class today. Emily Moffitt as an Under-25 rider, to see her performing so good at this level is fantastic. We have great partners here, Juss Event, and I know how busy they are with the Formula One only last week. We have the enormous support of the Government, they are really behind this event. I see the improvements every year. They are reliable partners and we are really happy to be here. Also our Title Partner Longines has been with us for six years and without their commitment we could not do this level of sport.
"In the ranking the cards are shuffled again and London Knights go into the lead. Even after the third leg everybody wants to go to Prague for the Play Offs. They all want to qualify for that. Every time you see the teams with different combinations and it is wonderful to see that movement."
Roger-Yves Bost, Chantilly Pegasus, 3rd place: "I have a good partner and I’m happy we finished third. Everybody was good in this class."
Simon Delestre, Monaco Aces, 2nd place: "We produced very good jumping today, both horses were prepared and we are really happy with this second place. It was a very good job today, very exciting."
Ben Maher, London Knights, 1st place: "It has been big jumping here this week and it is great to have Emily in both rounds and good for the young riders to come through and I really had to rely on her today to pull in the results and leave me to finish the job. I’m looking forward to the next legs."
Emily Moffitt, London Knights, 1st place: "Today was a bit more nerve-racking that I am used to. I try not to let the pressure get to me because it doesn’t really do anything to help you perform. I got to go first today so did my thing and unfortunately I had one down. I walked out and actually I didn’t watch Ben because I was too nervous, but then everyone was smiling at me so I thought we must have done something right! So it was exciting.”