New York Empire Strike Back With GCL Valkenswaard Victory
Photo: GCL / Stefano Grasso
Georgina Bloomberg and Daniel Bluman of New York Empire kept cool heads under enormous pressure with a spectacular victory at GCL Valkenswaard today. With their horses Quibelle and Ladriano Z, the teammates delivered a flawless performance to storm to the win a full four seconds faster than their closest rivals and denying the Cannes Stars supremacy today.
In a dramatic tightening at the top, St Tropez Pirates have jumped up to take the joint lead with London Knights - the two teams on the exact same score of 272 points, with the Knights just ahead in the ranking due to their higher number of wins this season. The Shanghai Swans are in third with a tally of 260 points, and just two points behind sit the Miami Celtics who have dropped from second to fourth, the team now with 258 points.
But glory went today to the New York Empire team, with the team taking their first win of the season. A delighted Georgina said: “This is a team I really believe in, and I really wanted to pull through, not just for my horse but for my amazing teammates. In my eyes we’ve had a great season, but have had a little bit of bad luck which has affected the results but I really wanted to pull through because my team have put in such an amazing effort all season and these guys deserve to be on the podium.”
Her teammate Daniel Bluman agreed: “Georgina delivered a beautiful round and I knew what time I had to do to be better than the current leaders. I felt the nerves, but it’s good to feel those nerves. It’s a fantastic feeling and I’m really happy that I’m able to share this with Georgina. She puts in a lot of hard effort for this and for us, and we’ve been really wanting it so it’s great.”
Georgina finished by highlighting the team’s home event which comes at the Finals in New York this September: “It’s a nice place to be on the podium - it’s exciting to be heading to New York in this way."
Under windswept blue skies Uliano Vezzani designed a challenging, high octane track, with plenty for the riders to think about. The most troublesome lines were the doubles set in different corners of the arena, including the penultimate line which was set against the big grandstand. There was a festival atmosphere in Valkenswaard at Tops International Arena as spectators enjoyed the village, with a dedicated kids play area and were able to watch top sport from the comfort of the covered grandstand and SkyBoxes.
Here’s how the action unfolded…
High in the overall rankings but with the worst score today, the Miami Celtics were looking for some serious damage control in this round of action. The team made a strategic rider change, with Michael Duffy off the bench to replace William Whitaker. First to go was Christophe Vanderhasselt who brought back his 11-year-old bay mare Identity Vitseroel. They bounced around the arena, but the LGCT vertical tumbled taking their score up to 17 faults so far. Michael Duffy brought out Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars, but they too had a fence - the GC Prague Playoffs plank - leaving the team on a total of 21 faults today.
Madrid In Motion
Madrid In Motion kept the same father-son line-up of Eric and Maikel van der Vleuten, however Maikel swapped to his 11-year-old mare Dana Blue. Eric was first up, keeping Wunschkind 19 for this round of action, and the pair flew around the track - surviving a lucky rub of the GCL oxer. They came home clear, passing the reins to son Maikel. Maikel and Dana Blue looked on flawless form, and they too brought home a clear for the team - Madrid in Motion would stay on their overnight score of 8.
Another team to make a horse change were the Hamburg Giants, with Simon Delestre bringing out his top horse Hermes Ryan. The small, punchy liver chestnut gelding rocketed around the arena, the duo making the tightest of turns and making up time in every corner. But Simon allowed Hermes Ryan to open up a touch too much to the final fence, taking five strides to the oxer but it fell - putting the team on a score of 12. Bart Bles kept Israel v.d.Dennehoeve, but the mare unfolded a touch too quickly at the GCL oxer and it too fell, dropping the team to a score of 16 overall.
Chantilly Pegasus followed the same strategy of the Giants, with Carlos Lopez swapping to his top horse G&C Arrayan. But G&C Arrayan fought for his head down the double set alongside the VIP and a pole tumbled, before it all started to unravel and they finished on 12 faults. Francois Mathy Jr stayed with his horse Uno de la Roque, and they produced a clear, but it wasn’t to be for the team, as they finished on a score of 20 today.
U25 rider Emil Hallundbaek stepped up for the Berlin Eagles today, riding with legend Ludger Beerbaum for the first time. The young Danish rider brought out his 12-year-old Chalisco but both the green and white oxer, and the following LGCT vertical fell. The second part of the double down the final line also tripped the pair up, with another 12 faults added to their overnight score of 4 faults. Ludger Beerbaum went for a steady approach with Cool Feeling, his tactics clearly to bring home a clear and limit the damage for the team. It paid off, the team finishing on 16 today.
Overall ranking leaders the London Knights knew they had to keep all the fences up today to be in with a chance of keeping the coveted leader armbands. Gudrun Patteet brought back her top horse Sea Coast Valdelamadre Clooney and the pair put in a foot-perfect round to bring home the clear. Teammate Olivier Philippaerts swapped to his top mare H&M Legend of Love, the 13-year-old grey mare quick around the course. They looked on song, but there was heartache as the back rail of the final oxer fell, the crowd groaning in disappointment as it hit the deck. The Knights would finish GCL Valkenswaard with 8 faults with an anxious wait to see how many points they can add to their tally here.
Home city team Valkenswaard United brought back Marcus Ehning for the second round of action at the Tops International Arena. Marcus piloted A La Carte NRW, the 11-year-old stallion jumping his heart out for the German rider, and they produced the clear for the team. Last year’s LGCT Grand Prix of Valkenswaard winner Frank Schuttert came off the bench for the team, bringing forward his top horse Queensland E. But the crowd groaned as the second part of the double set down the grandstand fell, United dropping to a score of 8 and behind the Knights on their combined time.
The Swans kept their formidable rider line-up in Daniel Deusser and Peder Fredricson - Number 2 and 3 in the Longines World Ranking - but both chose to make strategic horse changes today, with the team clearly in the hunt to retake the overall ranking lead. Daniel brought out Jasmien v. Bisschop, and they produced the clear, keeping the team on their overnight score of 4 faults. Peder opted to ride H&M All In, his 13-year-old bay gelding and they too looked on phenomenal form - bringing home another clear to keep the team on 4.
The Panthers made a strategic rider to change to bring in Gregory Wathelet with Picobello Full House Ter Linden Z in place of Harrie Smolders. The pair kept a steady, tidy round and despite a rub of the last their tactics paid off, the duo delivering a much-needed clear. Nayel Nassar kept Lucifer V, the dark bay gelding fresh and fiesty to the fences. Nayel knew he would have to jump a very fast clear to keep the Panthers ahead of the Swans. And they made up plenty of ground, the Panthers leaping ahead of the Swans on their combined time. They would finish with their overnight score of 4.
The Doha Falcons were one of only two teams who made no horse or rider changes. First to go was Jur Vrieling with Davall, and they took on the course with determination. But they too had agony at the last as the final oxer fell, the crowd groaning along with Jur as the pole fell. Bassem Mohammed and Gunder wanted to keep the team score of 5 intact, and gave the big striding bay a careful ride, taking extra care at the last. They produced the goods, finishing clear and keeping the Falcons on their score of 5 in total.
First of the teams on an overnight score of zero, Niels Bruynseels kept Ilusionata van't Meulenhof for today’s competition, but it would prove to be a costly round as the poles tumbled all over the course. In a surprising turnaround for the team, the Lions would drop to 12 faults. Marc Houtzager changed horses to Sterrehof's Calimero, but they too came undone at the LGCT vertical - another 4 faults putting the Lions on a total score of 16.
The second of only two teams to make no horse or rider changes the Scandinavian Vikings first fielded Evelina Tovek with Winnetou de la Hamente Z. But they brought down the oxer in the double coming into the line along the VIP hospitality, the team dropping to a score of 4. Christian Ahlmann brought back Take A Chance On Me Z, and went for a steady clear rather than risk bettering the time of the Paris Panthers. They kept the team on 4, but the Vikings had to settle behind the Swans due to their slower combined time.
St Tropes Pirates
Both Pirates opted to make a horse change, and Edwina Tops-Alexander brought out her 10-year-old chestnut gelding Casquell today. They gave a masterful performance, bringing home the clear for the team to keep them on their score of zero. Pieter Devos brought out his experienced bay gelding Espoir, the 15-year-old horse flying over the fences. Pieter kept a steady pace, giving the horse as much time as possible to the fences. The duo had a scary moment over the green and white oxer but recovered well to deliver a clear - the first team to produce a double clear this weekend.
The Aces brought out their U25 rider Jos Verlooy with his top stallion Caracas for the second round of action at GCL Valkenswaard. But their hearts sank as the GCL oxer came down, the Aces falling to a score of 4 and out of contention for the win today. Jérôme Guery and Quel Homme de Hus returned to the ring, knowing only a clear could keep them in with a shot of the podium. But their pace was slow, and despite delivering the clear they would finish behind the rest of those with 4 faults.
New York Empire
Georgina Bloomberg stepped up in place of Spencer Smith today, the New York Empire rider and team owner opting to ride her 10-year-old bay mare Quibelle for this round of action. They kept a steady and flowing rhythm throughout, producing a foot-perfect clear for the team. The pressure was firmly on the shoulders of Daniel Bluman with Ladriano Z, another big-striding horse, and they left all the fences up as they powered around the arena. They bettered the time of the Pirates, taking an impressive four seconds off the lead and piling the pressure on the final team, the Cannes Stars, to deliver a faster double clear.
Two of the fastest riders on the circuit Margie Goldstein-Engle and Eric Lamaze joined forces again for the second round of action at GCL Valkenswaard. First to go Margie kept her ride with the 10-year-old gelding Dicas, but it all came undone at the first of the doubles, after Dicas spooked at the final moment and both elements fell. Another fence would drop the team to 12, and out of contention of even a podium today. Eric Lamaze made a horse change to Fine Lady 5, but he also had the first part of the double down. The team would finish on a disappointing 16 faults.
The Championship now looks to Rome, Italy, from 5th - 8th September.
Jan Tops, Co-Founder GCL: "I am obviously very pleased with how the day went. We had a full house, the public were great and as always I was very happy with the sport. It’s not very often you get two teams on four clears. The footing has been great all week and that is the most important. If you see the top combinations competing in this arena, it is very special and you get the sport you see today. The competition was tough - every team has their own strategy and the beauty of having six riders means you can have different pairings.
"New York Empire were fantastic - all four rounds were very solid. The St Tropez Pirates and Paris Panthers came from behind which was great. I still put my cards on the London Knights to win the championship as they didn’t have their strongest team out this weekend so will be back fighting hard."
Georgina Bloomberg, New York Empire, 1st place: "It was a lot of pressure today, Spencer [Smith] was just as big a part of this as we were, even if he wasn’t on the podium today he put us in this position so he deserves just as much credit as Daniel and I. It was truly a great example of teamwork - yesterday they both jumped clear and I was able to jump the 1.45m and get my horse prepared for today, and have her a little bit fresher. I spoke to the two of them and Spencer chose to selflessly step off - he has been an amazing addition to the team, and it really just goes to show how well we work together. I was glad I was able to pull through for the team and not let them down.
"It is always more pressure riding for the team but it tastes sweeter when you pull through and accomplish it. I’ve always said riding in a team has always been my biggest passion - obviously the individual results are great but riding for a team is so much more gratifying, especially when you have an amazing team of people."
Daniel Bluman, New York Empire, 1st place: "As Georgina said it is a different feeling riding for the team. We’ve been really looking forward to winning one of these legs. We have a great team, we just haven’t had everything go exactly as planned. We go into the ring and Georgina rides a beautiful round, and so here I am thinking ‘now I need to make it happen’. We discussed the plan before going in and I’m lucky I’m riding a superstar of a horse. I did the maths and I knew what time I had to do to be on top."
Pieter Devos, St Tropez Pirates, 2nd place: "It is a special feeling as it is getting closer and closer - we could win it. There are three legs to go so we will put forward the best horses and combinations and try to beat the London Knights. It gives a feeling it is possible. We have to go for it now."
Gregory Wathelet, Paris Panthers, 3rd place: “We had a good first day, but a bit unlucky. Today we did our job, and Nayel did very well with the speed, which meant we could be at the front of the 4 faulters. We spoke before, and I know my horse can’t go fast here so I did my plan and my round, so we said Nayel has to try to get some time - and he did perfectly!”