Pirates Slash Swans’ Lead After GCL Hamburg Win
Photo: GCL / Stefano Graso
St Tropez Pirates' new dream team of Pieter Devos and Olivier Robert pulled off their second consecutive win at the GCL Hamburg dramatically narrowing the lead of Shanghai Swans in the overall team championship ranking. Just five points separate the top two teams, with Miami Celtics shooting up to third, a further seven points behind.
The Pirates fought off attacks from Miami Celtics’ Shane Breen and William Whitaker who finished in second with RMF Cadeau de Muze and Ipswich van de Wolfsakker, and an impressive effort from Paris Panthers’ pairing of U25 rider and team owner Jennifer Gates and Nayel Nassar with Capital Colnardo and Lucifer V who took third today.
A beaming Olivier of the Pirates said “It was a wonderful afternoon, and I’m so happy to be with Pieter today and this year. There are only a few points difference between us [and the Swans], but it’s very difficult so we’ll have to see.”
Teammate Pieter Devos agreed their unique pairing was a strong element for their team: “I’m very happy with Olivier who’s new in our team this year - it's the second time he rides with us. We’re proud this is the second time we win here too - it’s a fantastic venue here with a great crowd, so we’re very happy to win here.”
A delighted Jennifer Gates who is also the team owner of the Paris Panthers said “It was surreal. Standing up [on the podium] with some of the riders I idolise is an incredible honour - the crowd in Hamburg have been incredibly supportive so it’s really, really fun. I’m so proud [of my team]; every show we have at least two or three riders who come out with their best horses, they have all impressed me with how hard they’ve worked and it’s just an honour to have each and every one of them on the team.”
Nayel Nassar agreed, speaking about riding on the same team as Jennifer: "It is very special and rare for Jenn and I to ride on a team together - then to pull out a podium place... We will remember this for a long time."
Shane Breen who took second with Miami Celtics said: "It is nice to move up one place on the rankings and I am delighted with second today. We are in a good place for Cannes; I am on the team with Ipswich along with Harry [Charles] and Jessica [Springsteen] - we are quietly confident."
As the sun shone in the green and lush arena, families filled every inch of the grassy viewing back and grandstands, waiting in anticipation for the top horses and riders in the world to take centre stage.
Volker Wulff, Director of Engarde Marketing, spoke of the capacity crowd: "It was great sport today, and today it was full. The sport was good, the crowd was good and we are happy. Hamburg is all about the variety. The mix of classes means people who come from different regions they have a variety of watch, it is why they come."
GCL Sport Director Marco Danese agreed and highlighted the already thrilling Championship battle: "There are still a lot of competitions to go - they battle every time and a lot of teams are at the top.The crowds here are fantastic they show the passion and knowledge of our sport. They also support all riders from all of the nations - you can tell by the atmosphere in the prize giving."
German course designer Frank Rothenberger produced a twisting flowing course, with a tight time allowed of 86s ensuring riders needed to push on to finish within the marker. The first fence, a huge Longines oxer required plenty of scope from the off, and the second fence, another big Idee Kaffee oxer was quick to fall if not given enough respect while riders galloped to get ahead of the time - it soon became a fence to watch. Other challenges included the sunflower lined yellow and white double, another blue double set next to the packed out grandstands, a lighthouse flanked red plank set towards the in-gate and a wide GCL oxer to finish.
With many teams often opting for a steady clear in terms of strategy, the crucial time allowed would add an element of drama into the mix.
Here's how it unfolded...
First to go Roger-Yves Bost had everything to do for the Chantilly Pegasus team, with their R1 score of 24 playing heavy on their mind. The popular Frenchman piloted top horse Sunshine du Phare, the liver chestnut’s gleaming coat iridescent under the blue skies. The pair rose to the occasion, delivering a fast clear to give the Pegasus team the best result possible today. Teammate René Lopez came undone at the Sunflower double, and fence six, the lighthouse vertical also tumbled after Cevrine du Banney Z punched it out with his forelegs. The final fence also fell, meaning the team would finish on a disappointing score of 36.
The Doha Falcons duo cantered into the arena together, both riders on their smart bay horses and looking united with their burgundy team jackets. First to ride was Jur Vrieling with Davall who pulled out a strong clear for the Falcons. The team made a strategic switch, bringing Bronislav Chudyba in with Lester IX for this crucial second round. But the second fence fell, the Idee Kaffee oxer falling late but adding four faults to their total. They would finish on 24 overall.
Margie Goldstein-Engle was first for the Stars, with the huge Dicas completely under the control of his petite rider. Making full use of his massive stride, Margie kept the momentum up, motoring through the course. They powered to a phenomenal clear, passing the baton to speedy teammate Abdel Saïd with Venise du Reverdy who hoped to help keep the team on their overnight score of 12 faults. But the crowd groaned after the first fence, the Longines oxer fell, as did the tricky Idee Kaffee oxer to follow. The team would finish on 20 but with a speedy time.
With four teams on a score of eight the Lions were hoping for a double clear today to keep them in touching distance of a top end result. Marco Kutscher took up the reins first with Chades Of Blue, the German rider keeping a steady rhythm throughout the course. But the first part of the blue and white double combination set along the grandstand fell, dropping the team onto a score of 12 so far. Teammate Marc Houtzager and Sterrehof's Calimero set off at a steady canter, the team clearly opting for controlled clear rounds as their strategy. The duo delivered, with Sterrehof's Calimero kicking out as he cleared the final challenge. The team would stay on a score of 12.
Geir Gulliksen and VDL Groep Quatro were the first challengers for the Vikings, the confident pair flying around the first half of the course. But the Lighthouse vertical tumbled, adding four to the team score. Teammate Christian Ahlmann and Clintrexo Z would need to produce a clear and fast round to keep the Vikings ahead of the Lions. Boosted by his local fans, Christian piloted the dapple grey stallion around the course, again opting for a steadier clear to try keep the Vikings in touch. They delivered, keeping them on 12 and crucially ahead of the Lions.
The 2018 GCL Champions fielded Ben Maher and Olivier Philippaerts, however both riders made horse changes for the second round after their combined score of eight from Thursday. First up Ben rode Concona, a nine year old mare, and gave her a beautiful round to deliver a calm clear for the team. Olivier Philippaerts opted for one of his top horses, H&M Extra, for this round of action. And it proved to be a solid decision as the pair delivered a flawless round, keeping the team on a combined score of 8 overall.
Current ranking leaders the Shanghai Swans were the final team to start on a score of eight. With both riders also electing to use different horses, Shane Sweetnam and Alejandro took up the mantle first. The pair finished clear, heaping the pressure on the shoulders of Peder Fredricson and H&M All In. But the second part of the Sunflower double came down, dropping the team onto a score of 12 and behind the Knights.
The blue and orange United team made no changes to their line up, with Bertram Allen and Harley vd Bisschop first to attack the course. But the delicate GC vertical fell, putting the team onto a score of 8 and adding yet more pressure to U25 rider Maurice Tebbel. The Lighthouse vertical tumbled, adding another four faults to the team score to put them on 12.
Home city team, the Giants saw their hopes of a home turf podium tumble after Lauren Hough and Waterford knocked the first three fences down. The lighthouse vertical tumbled too, as did the DKB oxer, dropping the team onto a score of 24. Teammate Bart Bles knew that even a clear with Israel v.d.Dennehoeve couldn’t help the Giants, and although they delivered it would be a day to forget for the team.
U25 rider Jennifer Gates had a unlucky fault at the first Longines oxer with Capital Colnardo but tackled the rest of the tricky course clear, keeping the team on eight overall. Nayel Nassar had his hands full with Lucifer V, the talented gelding napping back to the in-gate as the clock ticked down to the start. But Nayel kept his cool and got Lucifer V on side, flying to the first and within the time to start their challenge. They delivered, finishing clear and keeping the team on a score of eight and in touch of a podium.
St Tropez Pirates
Last year’s winners the Pirates knew they had a real shot at a podium today. First to go Olivier Robert and Vivaldi Des Meneaux pulled out a stunning clear for the team, with the Pirates looking to keep their score of four steady. Pieter Devos and top mare Claire Z were flying, knowing another clear would mean they would be the only team so far to keep a clean scoreboard today. And the anchorman delivered, his bond with the bay mare clear as she responded beautifully to bring home a faultless result. The team would stay on four with a nervous wait to see where the other teams would finish.
Jos Verlooy and Caracas were caught out at the sunflower double, putting the Aces on the back foot. Julien Epaillard and Virtuose Champeix came undone at the Lighthouse vertical, and there was further agony for the team after the final oxer fell, eight faults added to their score and dropping the Aces down the order and out of contention for a podium.
The Berlin Eagles have made full use of strong recruit Malin Baryard-Johnsson, the Swedish star performing solidly at almost every leg of the Championship so far. And once again she delivered, this time with H&M Indiana, before passing the reins to German legend Ludger Beerbaum who elected to pilot Casello for this crucial round of competition. Motivated by his local crowd, Ludger kept the chestnut horse calm and steady throughout the course. But the first part of the blue combination set along the grandstand fell, adding four to the team score. The team would finish on 8 faults, and a touch slower than the Panthers.
Madrid in Motion
Mark McAuley and Jasco v. Bisschop were the first for Madrid in Motion, the bay horse a little unsteady early in the course. But they soon settled, Mark finding the natural rhythm to deliver a clear for the team. But agonisingly they picked up a time fault, putting the team on 5 so far. Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot had all the pressure to keep any further faults from being added to their score, but the lighthouse plank fell and the team dropped off the podium.
First of the only two teams to start today on a score of zero, the Miami Celtics knew a strong result here would help their charge up the overall GCL rankings. First in William Whitaker and RMF Cadeau de Muze clearly had a steady clear on their mind, as William balanced the enthusiastic horse carefully around the arena. But one fence would put them on four, but still in with a chance for a podium, passing the reins to Shane Breen with top horse Ipswich van de Wolfsakker. They delivered, finishing clear and slipping them into second behind the Pirates.
New York Empire
Final team to go, New York Empire kept their pairing of Scott Brash and Hans-Dieter Dreher for this crucial round. Scott piloted Hello Senator, the British Olympian carefully managing the talented horse. But the lighthouse vertical fell, putting the team on an equal score with the Pirates. The pressure was on to keep the rest of the poles up and deliver, but Scott had to fight to the final fence, with the oxer falling along with the team’s hopes of a win. But there was further heartache after Hans-Dieter Dreher and Embassy II rolled the same lighthouse fence, and dropping the team off the podium.
The Championship now looks to Cannes, France, for the seventh round of action in a thrilling 2019 season race.
For the full results, please click here.