Pirates Pounce in Nail-Biting GCL Doha Opener
Photo: GCL / Stefano Grasso
St Tropez Pirates kicked off their 2020 GCL campaign in determined style combining speed and pinpoint accuracy to take the lead going into Saturday’s showdown. 8 teams finished on a zero score after this nail-biting first round, with some blisteringly fast rounds from St Tropez Pirates, Scandinavian Vikings and London Knights.
New signing Daniel Deusser joined St Tropez Pirates team stalwart Pieter Devos for the first time at this opening leg in Qatar, and the team’s strategy paid off. Pieter praised his new teammate and said “We had a very good start, a nice clear. I’m very happy with my new teammate Daniel who gave us a lot of confidence for the start of the season”.
Speaking of his new team’s chances, after today's dramatic display of firepower, Daniel Deusser said “It’s a new season, new challenge, new team, we have a very good team but we need to produce the results”.
With half of the teams jumping double clears around Frank Rothenberger’s 1.50/1.55m exciting track, motivation is high among the team riders, owners and managers from day one of the GCL team championship at this opening leg and it will be all to play for in Saturday’s final round.
This season’s teams are stronger than ever, with more horsepower and new talent being added, and some exciting transfers as this year’s battle gets underway.
It was clear from the start today that this year’s teams are fiercely competitive in the race for the 2020 championship, and high calibre combinations not only delivered clear rounds, but also threw down the gauntlet for the fastest times, with Scott Brash posting the fastest round in today’s team competition.
The teams are eager to make their mark at this early stage of the season, and on Saturday, the GCL Doha Champions will be crowned in what is sure to be a thrilling finale.
Madrid in Motion
First into the arena in this GCL round 1 competition, the pressure was on for Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and Legend, riding for Madrid in Motion, and a costly early pole left him to finish on 4 faults. Second to go for the team was Maikel van der Vleuten, riding Dana Blue, who really had his foot to the pedal and showed how it could be done in a fast clear round.
Valkenswaard United are looking like a strong team for the 2020 season, and their team riders in this first round set the standard for other teams. Both Marcus Ehning, riding Funky Fred, and Peder Fredricson, riding Catch me Not S posted fast clear rounds to take an early lead.
Jack Whitaker was first into the stunning Longines Arena for Cascais Charms at Al Shaqab with Scenletha, riding in the GCL team competition for the first time. It wasn’t to be for Cascais Charms in Doha, as Jack was unfortunately eliminated, as his horse took a dislike to the second fence, jumping outside the flags. Francois Mathy Jr then picked up the mantle, and finished on 12 faults with Uno de la Roque.
Simon Delestre and Bart Bles both return to the Hamburg Giants again for 2020, and finished in the middle of the field going into Saturday’s second round. Simon was first into the ring with Berlux Z, and posted a clear jumping round with only one time fault to add. Bart Bles had a similarly successful round with Israel v.d. Dennehoeve, securing a fast clear round to finish the team on a score of 1 going into Saturday’s competition.
Last year’s GCL Super Cup winners, Shanghai Swans, pulled out all the stops for a strong start to their 2020 campaign. Max Kühner and Vancouver Dreams had a foot-perfect round to finish on a 0 score. Pius Schwizer and Cortney Cox followed them into the expansive sand arena, and had just one unlucky pole down to finish the team on 4 faults.
New York Empire
First into the ring for New York Empire was Scott Brash and Hello Shelby, who posted a faultless clear round. Denis Lynch was next up, riding Rubens LS la Silla, and following their round with just one fence down, New York Empire were another team to finish on 4 faults going into Saturday’s second round.
Cannes Stars fielded Jane Richard Philips and Hans-Dieter Dreher for this opening leg at Al Shaqab in Doha, Qatar. Jane had a promising round on Victorio des Grez to finish with just 4 faults, but Hans-Dieter Dreher really pulled out all the stops and achieved a fast clear round with Prinz. At this stage of the competition, Cannes Stars became the fourth team to finish on 4 faults.
Swedish riders Evelina Tovek and Henrik von Eckermann return for the 2020 season, keen to secure a strong result at this early stage. Evelina Tovek set the pace with Dalila de la Pomme, posting a faultless clear round, and Henrik von Eckermann and Best Boy picked up the mantle and achieved an equally foot-perfect round, to take the team into the lead, and ultimately finish in close second going into Saturday’s final round.
Monaco Aces stalwarts Julien Epaillard and Jérôme Guery returned to competition for this opening leg, and were another team to keep the pedal to the mettle throughout their rounds. Riding Virtuose Champeix, Julien set the tone for the team with a clear round, and Jérôme Guery followed his lead with Quel Homme de Bus, securing another clear and a clean sheet for the team going into the second round on Saturday.
Marco Kutscher set a strong pace, riding Chaccorina as the first rider out for Berlin Eagles, producing a great clear round. Following him was Philipp Weishaupt and Che Fantastisch, who ensured his team’s strong position for the second round, keeping them on a score of 0, one of 8 teams to go through on a clean sheet.
The Paris Panthers put in a great campaign to secure the 5th double clear with a new heavyweight duo. Pénélope Leprevost kicked off the team with a foot perfect clear on GFE Excalibur de la Tour Vidal. It was then Gregory Wathelet’s turn to take to the stage with Indigo, and secured another clear round for the team to finish fourth, in a very competitive position for Saturday’s final.
Wilm Vermier knocked a pole early on in his round with IQ van het Steenje, putting the pressure on for a fast time if the Prague Lions were to stay in contention for a good position on Saturday. Making his debut for the Prague Lions, Jur Vrieling took a risk with KM Chalcedon at the penultimate fence to take a stride out, however it didn’t pay off and the back rail came crashing down and to put them on the back foot with a total of 8 faults.
Young gun Gilles Thomas made his first appearance for the Miami Celtics with Calleryama. The pair had a small hesitation going into the double but Gilles pushed Calleryama on and they cleared it with room to spare. Maurice Tebbel also brought home the goods with another clear on Don Diarado, and although the pair finished the slowest of the double clears they are exciting prospects for the rest of the year, being the youngest team at only 22 and 26 years old.
St Tropez Pirates
Anchor-man Pieter Devos entered the ring for St Tropez Pirates first with Espoir. He opted to go for the long 6 strides after the double to the tall upright and his risk paid off as they picked up the first clear for the St Tropez Pirates of the year. Up next was new addition to the Pirates, Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen. Daniel pulled out all the stops and showed everyone what the Pirates are made of as he took the team to the top spot.
Last year’s overall GCL Season Champions, London Knights put twins Nicola and Olivier Philippaerts forward to tackle Frank Rothenberger’s twisty 1.55m course. Olivier rolled the middle fence in the triple combination on Zayado but luck was on their side and it stayed in place. He proves to be an exciting new mount for Olivier and the London Knights as Zayado produced the necessary clear. Performing under pressure, Nicola used the speed of his talented and competitive mare Katanga v.h. Dingeshof to put London Knights into third place and on a clean sheet.
The crowds cheered as the home team rode into the arena. There was drama when Caletto Cabana didn't like the look of the triple combination causing them to be eliminated after two refusals. Titouan still chose to jump even though the home team were eliminated and will not be making it through to the final on Saturday.
For full results, click here.