Photo: GCL / Stefano Grasso
Paris Panthers turned up the heat in the Global Champions League ranking with a thrilling win in Shanghai with fans on the edge of their seats until the final fence. Darragh Kenny and Jack Hardin Towell sealed victory after a major upset saw leading team St Tropez Pirates tumble from pole position to 8th overall.
Today’s dramatic team competition went down to the wire and ended with the GCL season leaderboard tighter than ever. Valkenswaard United’s heavyweight squad ensured they held on to their lead for the third leg in a row. New recruit Marcus Ehning proved he was a strong signing and went clear in his GCL debut pairing with Alberto Zorzi today for the Final in Shanghai. The team are on 74 points overall and only 6 points ahead of second place London Knights who jumped ahead of St Tropez Pirates, now in third position, in the ranking.
Thousands of fans watched the team competition, sponsored by BMW, play out on the spectacular show ground in Shanghai overlooked by the imposing red China Art Pavilion. BMW China President Michael Liu praised the event and the world class sport. Families enjoyed the stunning shopping village and entertainment as dignitaries from China joined the VIP guests.
The GCL competition was not short of drama as the heavyweights of show jumping ensured a formidable calibre of competition. St Tropez Pirates looked confident for most of the class after a flawless performance in Round 1 yesterday put them in pole position. Julien Epaillard and Quatrin de la Roque jumped clear following his clear round yesterday on Cristallo. The pressure was on Simon Delestre and chestnut gelding Chesall to hold on to the lead. But the pair picked up an unusual and agonising 12 faults leaving the team plunging down the scoreboard to 8th overall.
Hamburg Diamonds took a strong second, with John Whitaker and Jos Verlooy also jumping clear, just shy of the fastest time in 161.94s. Third went to the London Knights, after Ben Maher and Kent Farrington teamed up once more, with both riders jumping clear but carrying through four faults from the previous round. Fresh from their win in Miami Beach, the pair were the ones to beat with top horses Don Vito and Creedance.
Uliano Vezzani's course was a tough test for the world’s best, featuring formidable oxers, a distracting water tray and delicate verticals. A challenging dog-leg back to the in-gate caught out a few combinations. Others rolled poles in the Longines combination set against the long side of the arena, where the challenge was the short four strides to a big oxer to finish in a time allowed of 84 seconds. The first of the related distances troubled several competitors with the majority of fences at maximum height, including a 1.60m plank, which was gappy, light and with no ground line.
There were thrills and spills aplenty throughout the class, with 14 riders going clear throughout. Kimberly Prince and RMF Bella Baloubet had a double refusal at the water tray, meaning that Miami Glory were eliminated, with teammate Scott Brash’s score not counting despite his phenomenal clear with Hello Annie. Home team fans were left disappointed as Shanghai Swans’ Daniel Deusser and the large-striding Clintop had the final fence down despite flying round in masterful style. Team mate Roger-Yves Bost rode a flying clear with Pegase du Murier, winning the class individually as the fans waved their burgundy and green Shanghai Swans flags. But it was not enough for the home team who finished in 10th overall.
Nicola Philippaerts, riding the popular H&M Harley v. Bisschop, also collected an unusual number of faults. The stunning dapple grey stopped in the second part of the double after crashing through the water tray. Another refusal from teammate Lauren Hough and Cornet 39 also meant the team collected a total of 40 faults overall, dropping them down the order and out of contention. Laura Kraut looked strong for the Rome Gladiators, however Zeremonie dropped her legs in the final oxer, kicking back to knock the pole and racking up points for the team total.
Marco Kutscher and Clenur kept their 'calm and steady' strategy, with the expressive duo jumping clear for the Cannes Stars. An unlucky time fault contributed to the team score of 9 after new recruit and German legend Ludger Beerbaum and Chiara had a pole down in the second round. Fresh from their win in Miami Beach, Ben Maher put in a sensational round with Don Vito for the London Knights, jumping clear in 76.61s, a full four seconds ahead of the rest of the field. The London Knights were on incredible form, with Kent Farrington also jumping clear for the team to shoot them up to third place and second in the overall rankings.
But it was the Paris Panthers combination of Jack Hardin Towell and Darragh Kenny who stole the show, taking the win in emphatic style in front of wowed local spectators. Both riders have looked on form throughout the event however proved to be unstoppable in today’s final, with both riders jumping clear and riding fastest with combined total of 155.99s. The League now looks to Europe, and Madrid, where temperatures will continue to rise as the battle for valuable ranking points moves up a gear.
Jan Tops, Co-Founder Global Champions League; "It was really exciting today and the more we run through the year the more exciting it will be. It is now very close (GCL ranking) with London Knights only 6 points behind Valkenswaard United and with St Tropez Pirates and Hamburg Diamonds and now Paris Panthers move up again. We are very fortunate to have a brand like BMW for a long-term contract in Shanghai. It is very good to be associated with and also for BMW it is a perfect fit. It is great to have Shanghai in our circuit."
Darragh Kenny, Paris Panthers (1st place team): "It has been a very successful weekend for me, he (Charly Chaplin) is an incredible horse and it was great for us today to win the team event. We had a strong chance to do well and were very positive about it. Hardin (Towell) had two different horses and it was a really fun competition."
Jack Hardin Towell, Paris Panthers (1st place team): "The weather today was fantastic for show jumping. Sometimes when it is hot it takes a lot out of the horses but it was not too hot here.”
John Whitaker, Hamburg Diamonds (2nd place team): "We had a good day. We perhaps played it a little bit safe but both double clear but not quick enough. Very happy with the horses and the way they jumped."
Jos Verlooy, Hamburg Diamonds (2nd place team): "I am very honoured to be in a team with John Whitaker, a rider I always looked up to and it is great to ride in the same team."
Kent Farrington, London Knights (3rd place team): "Ben and I had two really good horses for the class today, they’re both quick so when it comes down to time that plays to our advantage for the second round.”