Madrid in Motion Magnificent In Evening of High Drama at GCL Cannes
Photo: GCL / Stefano Grasso
In a dramatic evening of extraordinary sport at GCL Cannes, father and son duo Eric and Maikel van der Vleuten triumphed with Madrid in Motion after leading team New York Empire went from hero to zero following a shock elimination.
In the overall rankings the race for the Championship has tightened although the Shanghai Swans keep hold of the lead with 145 points. Miami Celtics have moved to second overall with 137 points, with St Tropez Pirates dropping to third but just one point behind in 136 overall.
In a competition full of drama and intrigue, the New York Empire duo of Denis Lynch and Hans-Dieter Dreher were unable to find redemption and convert their third pole position into a win today after a double refusal from Lynch and van de Vivaldi eliminated the team. Miami Celtics U25 rider Harry Charles pulled out another flawless performance with teammate Shane Breen to rocket the Celtics up the results board for a podium finish, and the Shanghai Swans duo of Peder Fredricson and Daniel Deusser secured third today.
But it was Madrid in Motion who secured the only double clear of the weekend with a phenomenal performance from the father and son combination of the van der Vleuten family - watched on by team owner Marta Ortega.
A delighted Maikel said: “On Thursday the horses felt very good, and the horse from my father jumped two amazing rounds. It’s an honour to win here the League competition. My father has always been my trainer and it’s good he can compete still, so we’re very happy with our win today.”
His father Eric agreed, saying: “It makes us even more motivated [when team owner Marta Ortega] is here! It's with thanks to Marta that we are able to do this together in our family, so it’s a nice win. It’s a combination of both of us - we’re good together, it’s amazing to win this competition at this level.”
The course set by Gregory Bodo was a tough challenge, with full height 1.55/1.60m fences coming up thick and fast for the riders and a tight time allowed of 78 seconds. The track had a variety of obstacles, a wide Constance oxer to start, a solid blue Longines plank on a curving turn and a hard to see light red Air Mauritius challenge with the top pole rolling if horses took their eye off the fence. A delicate GC vertical was quick to fall after a tough double and a huge Cannes oxer set towards the in-gate meant absolute focus and control was necessary. A GCL double to finish caught out a few, with the final oxer falling much to the heartache of riders after the curving line away from the in-gate.
Under clear blue skies the sun began its slow descent over the sparkling turquoise Mediterranean ocean, as long shadows threw plenty of shapes across the square arena and the floodlights came on to light up the stage.
Here’s how the action unfolded…
The team were once again on the back foot, carrying a heavy score of 24 faults through from Thursday’s first round. First in was Alberto Zorzi and Danique with only a double clear on the minds of the athletes today. The pair flew around the course, but the GC vertical tumbled as Danique looked a little racy, fighting for her head and coming in too close. Zorzi had to push hard to keep the momentum to the final line, the mare napping towards the in-gate, but they finished on a score of four. Teammate Bertram Allen made a horse change for this round, piloting GK Casper in the hope of a change of fortune. But the first part of the blue and white double fell, adding yet more faults to their total - the team would finish on 32 overall; a weekend to forget for United.
The Falcons put forward Bassem Mohammed first, with the experienced dark bay Gunder swishing his tail in anticipation as they approached the first fence. The Longines plank fell, and the duo picked up a costly time fault adding five faults to the score, with Bonislav Chudbya needing a clear to stay ahead of United. But the Longines plank fell, adding another four faults and dropping them right to the bottom of the order with a total of 37.
Christian Kukuk was first to take on the challenge for the Berlin Eagles with stallion Colestus jumping magnificently to clear the fences. But their was heartache for the pair as the final fence fell, the red and white GCL oxer tumbling and putting the team on a combined score of 25 faults. U25 rider Emil Hallundbaek kept his R1 horse Chalisco, but the 10 year old bay was too keen to the GC vertical and had it down. The pressure was on, but the pair finished the course, the team on a final score of 29 overall.
The Vikings sent in U25 rider Evelina Tovek and Mill's Sheridan first, the dark horse careful over the fences and giving them plenty of height. The duo delivered, Evelina beaming with delight after they crossed the finish clear and flawlessly. The team had made a strategic change to bring in Leopold van Asten with VDL Groep Zidane, and it paid off, the team finishing on a double clear today so keeping their score of 20 overall. They could have done no more and would have to wait and see if they could rise up the ranking.
First in for the Pegasus team was Roger-Yves Bost with Castleforbes Talitha, hoping to make better on their previously disappointing round. Another four faults would drop the team down to 21 overall with Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo next to take up the reins with Ulhane de Conde. But the Longines plank fell and the team would tumble down the order.
The home city team the Cannes Stars made a strategic change to bring Abdel Saïd off the bench for this round of action. The Egyptian rider piloted Venise du Reverdy around the course, but the tricky Longines plank fell again, with a time fault to add giving the team another five faults. Karel Cox kept his trusted steed Evert for this round, the pair clear on Thursday. But the back rail of the Hubside oxer with a water tray underneath tumbled, with yet more faults added to put the team on 25 overall and now behind the Vikings and the Pegasus team.
The Panthers put forward Yuri Mansur first with Casantos but the Hubside oxer fell again as did another fence, putting a further 8 faults on the board for the team. Gregory Wathelet brought out his eye-catching grey stallion MJT Nevados S, the horse leaping expressively over the challenges. But the Cannes oxer tumbled as they headed towards the in-gate, dropping the team down to a score of 24 with the Vikings moving up the results board.
St Tropez Pirates
Edwina Tops-Alexander and California flew around the course, the pair avoiding a lucky scrape of the Hubside wing as the mare spooked at the shadow while jumping the oxer. They finished clear but picked up an agonising time fault. Pieter Devos was keen for redemption after his unusual 12 faults in R1, this time bringing out experienced horse Espoir. They survived a couple of lucky rubs, but finished clear, the team would stay on 13.
Local hero Julien Epaillard and Usual Suspect d’Auge flew around the arena, leaving everything up to keep the Aces on track with their overnight team score of 12. Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and Sirene de la Motte knew they had to stay clear to keep ahead of the Pirates. But the second part of the purple and white double fell, putting the team on 16 and behind the Pirates.
As the shadows lengthened, the overall ranking leaders the Shanghai Swans took to the arena - with no change to their horse or rider line up. First to tackle the course was Peder Fredricson and H&M Christian K, determination etched across the face of the experienced Swedish rider. The 12 year old bay horse leapt and danced his way around the arena, jumping his heart out for his rider. Fredriscon managed him beautifully, carefully guiding him around the course to finish clear and pass the baton to his teammate Daniel Deusser. With the fiery Calisto Blue, Deusser took on the course with grit and focus. The horse was keen to the fences, but Deusser held him steady, producing another magnificent clear to keep the team on a score of 8 overall.
U25 rider Harry Charles who has impressed in every GCL class so far this season was first to go for the Celtics, opting to ride ABC Quantum Cruise again for this crucial round. Despite the pressure they delivered yet again, another outstanding performance for the young rider in his first year at this level. Shane Breen came off the bench for the team today, with top chestnut stallion Ipswich van de Wolfsakker. The star striker also pulled out all the stops, but the purple and white double fell dropping the team onto a score of 8. But Breen shifted up a gear and they finished fast, importantly ahead of the Swans.
Wilm Vermeir came forward with Iq van het Steentje for round two of action at GCL Cannes. With teammate Anna Kellnerova watching on, making great progress on her road to recovery following the fall in Madrid, Vermeir powered around the arena with his horse. But the GC vertical fell and was quickly followed by another pole to add another eight faults to their score. A time fault added to their woes, with the pressure on Niels Bruynseels and Gancia de Muze to keep their score of 13 overall. And they proved what a valuable signing they were, with a spectacular clear to keep the team on a fast clear, ahead of the Pirates on time.
Simon Delestre and Filou Carlo Zimequest looked fast and fiery but fell short at the blue and white combination. The grey gelding kicked out at the Hubside oxer and it too fell, adding another eight faults to the team score. Bart Bles and the consistent Gin D knew they would have to finish clear to keep the team in touch today. But the front rail of the Longines oxer fell, and Bles picked up a time fault, plummeting the team to 17 overall.
Olivier Philippaerts was first for the London Knights, piloting H&M Cue Channa 42 - but the first fence, the Constance oxer, fell, putting the pair on the back foot with a long course to complete. Another pole at the Air Mauritius oxer fell, the team tumbling down to a score of 12 overall so far. But their woes would continue, the final fence falling too to put the score on 16 - the Knights dropping way down the order. Team manager and anchor Ben Maher would have everything to with Explosion W, but they pulled out yet another clear, keeping the Knights on 16 overall - quicker than the Aces.
Madrid in Motion
Father and son duo Eric and Maikel van der Vleuten also opted to make no changes to their team line up today, hoping their consistent combination would deliver the goods in Cannes as the first of two teams on a score of zero. First to go Eric van der Vleuten piloted his experienced horse Wunschkind 19, the chestnut horse clearing the fences in style. They pulled out all the stops for a tremendous clear, passing the baton to son Maikel with top stallion Verdi TN. Watched on by team owner Marta Ortega, Maikel and Verdi tackled the course head on, clearly going for a steady clear as their strategy. Maikel gave the horse as much room as possible, and they finished clear with a combined time of 156.33s - Verdi doing his famous celebratory buck after he crossed the finish line.
New York Empire
The pressure was on the New York Empire team, hoping to convert their pole position today - their third of the season. First to go Denis Lynch carefully guided van de Vivaldi around the course but it fell apart after van de Vivaldi came off the bit to the Air Mauritius oxer, forcing Lynch to circle. Another fallen fence added to their woes before van de Vivaldi refused at the Longines plank - the second refusal and causing the team to be eliminated. It would be another shock result for the team, dropping them from hero to zero, despite Hans-Dieter Dreher’s incredibly fast clear round with Prinz.
Francois Bourey, LGCT Cannes Event Director: "Today was great sport, it was fantastic and so nice to see a father and son win. I want to say how fabulous the course was and big congratulations to the new course designer [Gregory Bodo]. Cannes is special, it has lots of glamour and lots of new scenes are planned for the future like a new grandstand next year so we can have the best conditions."
Jan Tops, GCL Co-Founder; "The circuit is about being diverse - we have events that are during the day and night, in small arenas and on grass. You need special horses and special riders to be able to perform in all these circumstances. It is fantastic to see my friends - father and son as the winners. They are a great team; for 16 teams to jump and there to be only one on zero faults you can see how difficult it is. Everyone is putting forward their best horses at each event. You can see GCL maturing - the good thing in the League is everyone has a possibility to win. [The Championship] is open of course but the Shanghai Swans are very strong. Miami Celtics have been very consistent along with the St Tropez Pirates."
Daniel Deusser, Shanghai Swans, 3rd: "Luckily we stayed on the podium. This year we have very strong horse and rider combinations. We didn’t have the best start on Thursday with both riders having four faults but we came back with two clear rounds today and finished on the podium. When you ride with a rider like Peder it gives you a lot of confidence. Kim Emmen our U25 rider was also clear today in the class so like I say we are very strong.”
Harry Charles, Miami Celtics, 2nd: "It has been amazing to even be part of a team this year so to get on the podium with a rider like Shane [Breen] is every young lad's dream really. I am very grateful for today - this whole championship has really helped me. I was lucky enough to do London last year and that lead to everything else, so at 19 to be jumping at the biggest shows in the world - it is a dream come true!”
Eric van der Vleuten, Madrid in Motion, 1st: "We had a very clear plan just to try to jump a clear. We knew if we could finish on 0 faults and we put the pressure on the last team to go. When we finished with two clear rounds I had a very good feeling. It’s amazing if you can do all this with your family. A couple of years ago I quit riding but thanks to Marta [Ortega] who gave me the chance to jump at this level again. To win at this level with your son doesn’t happen much!”
Maikel van der Vleuten, Madrid in Motion, 1st: "I am proud of my dad and it is nice we can do it together - now we just need to keep moving up the championship. In Madrid we were close and here we made the win so we move up [in the rankings] but we have to keep going. We will try to make a plan for the rest of the season and try keep the horses and riders in the best shape possible."