Stars of Show Jumping Arrive in Prague as GC Playoffs Officially Launched
Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Today 100 horses and 59 athletes from 20 different nations took to the magnificent O2 Arena for the first time in the Czech Republic ahead of the inaugural GC Prague Playoffs.
Excitement and anticipation has been building for the debut GC Playoffs event, which kicks off tomorrow, Thursday 13th December, with the world’s top horses and riders in action for the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix and GCL Super Cup.
Many of the stars of show jumping have already arrived in the Czech capital city, with the horses settled well into their stables ahead of the four day competition. Big names include Ben Maher’s LGCT Championship winning horse Explosion W, Edwina Tops-Alexander’s California and Inca Boy van T Vianahof, Peder Fredricson’s Hansson WL and Ludger Beerbaum’s Casello. Many Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix contenders have brought their top horse, including Harrie Smolders’ Don V.H.P Z, Sameh El Dahan’s Suma’s Zorro, Shane Breen’s Ipswich van de Wolfsakker, and Frank Schuttert’s Chianti’s Champion.
Other top calibre names include H&M Chilli Willi, Hello Mr President, Lizziemary, Molly Malone V, Comme Il Faut, Winning Good, Calisto Blue, Caracas, Clooney and Verdi TN, with spectators looking forward to seeing many international stars of show jumping flex their muscles in Prague for the first time in history.
Speaking today in a pre-event press conference to officially launch the event, Jan Tops, President and Founder of the Longines Global Champions Tour and GCL said: "To be here in this amazing place, Prague, and at the right time of the year is amazing for our sport. The GC Playoffs will be something unique, and it will be the first time ever we have the [event] here. All the riders and owners are looking forward to being here - it’s something totally different. We wanted to be innovative, we should never lose the tradition but we should be innovative as in other sports."
Only last weekend the World Floorball Championships were taking place and in a major logistical achievement the whole arena has been prepared in just two days - including the delivery and layout of specialist sand imported from Germany.
Jan Tops praised the efforts from the team on the ground in Prague: “I was very impressed with this arena when I saw it for the first time. We always wanted a unique place like here in the stadium - and it’s thanks to the Kellnerova family and their team that we can host this here. Everyone has done an amazing job to get this ready in just two days time. With the shape of the arena there is going to be a really special atmosphere, and a totally different feeling.”
Indeed throughout the day dress rehearsals have been taking place, from an incredible light show to acrobats, circus performers to horse display teams - all adding to the unique and festive atmosphere this weekend. GC Prague Playoffs Event Director Jan Andrlik spoke of the programme: “We have prepared great entertainment to accompany the top sport. We have some foreign artists, as well as local stars, so visitors to the O2 Arena will be entertained all the time.”
Thousands of spectators will enjoy performances throughout the day and evening. Jan Andrlik explained: “There are still a few tickets available although Saturday and Sunday is almost sold out. The Prague lions will be competing on Thursday so fans should come [to support their home team]!”
The GCL Super Cup will start on Thursday 13th December, with 12 teams battling it out in the quarter-finals to earn a place in Friday’s semi-finals and Sunday's final. Home city team Prague Lions was represented by local rider Ales Opartny who joined the press conference; "I think all our riders are in great shape, as demonstrated in the last weeks. We haven’t seen Peder yet as he arrives today but I hope the atmosphere is as excellent as it was earlier all year and we are prepared for the days.
"I remember I saw a couple of days ago the Floorball was still happening but now the arena is ready. The result is excellent, the whole team have done a great job and I’m looking forward to the beginning [of the show] and seeing the audience.”
Tonight will see a warm up for the international field, with the chance for the horses to see the arena for the first time. Tomorrow’s first CSI5* competition will start at 17:00 local time with the GCL Super Cup quarter finals starting at 21:00 local time. All the action will be streamed live on GC TV and selected classes on the official Facebook pages.
For the full rider list, please click here.
For more information about the event and tickets, please click here