The GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs stands as a distinct spectacle, diverging sharply from the routine GCL season competitions. Here, the usual chess-like strategies and calculated moves are set aside; it's a high-stakes, three-day ultra-competition that leaves no room for error, and certainly not for excuses. It's a battleground where champions and underdogs alike find themselves exposed to the unforgiving challenges of fences and rivals.
For teams that faced an uunderwhelming season, the €10 million GCL Super Cup is a golden opportunity to reclaim honour, secure prize money, and rejuvenate team spirit. The Quarter Final sees the 12 lowest-ranked teams from the regular season come together, each sending in three riders for a single-round format. As bitter as the weekend can be sweet, 4 teams will not make the cut for the Semi Final, meaning they will jump only one round and their dreams dashed as the intensity of the competition escalates.
The Semi Final sees the qualified teams joining the top 4 teams from the regular season in once again a one-round competition with 3 riders on a team. Every result counts as riders navigate the course, aiming for a spot in the Final where a prize pool of more then €6.5 million awaits. The cutthroat competition culminates with the best six teams battling it out over two rounds for the coveted title.
Throughout the season, strategic decisions by team managers where changing horse and rider combinations in Round 1 and Round 2 often determine the outcome of each stage. Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian, and Paris Panthers have engaged in a fierce battle, with the Panthers adopting a strategy of deploying nearly double the amount of horses into the circuit compared with the eventual 2023 season champions.
However, as the upcoming weekend approaches, a surprising revelation emerges from an analysis of the last four GCL Super Cup editions: it seems that all it takes is three exceptional horses.
In 2018, Madrid in Motion defied expectations, in both their approach across the ultra-competition and performance. Clinching fourth place in the Quarter Final with the trio of Verdi TN of Maikel van der Vleuten, Sterrehof’s Calimero of Marc Houtzager and Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot of Eduardo Aznar in the line-up. The same lineup of riders in the same order delivered success in the Semi Final and, crucially, secured the top position in Round 1 of the Final. As last team to go in the first round of the Final they took the lead beating Valkenswaard United to the clock, setting them in pole-position for Round 2. With a time penalty for every rider Aznar was the man to bring home the trophy for Madrid in Motion.
The 2019 winners, Shanghai Swans, only started their Super Cup campaign from the Semi Final after finishing 4th in the regular season. They made one rider change between the Semi Final and the Final, bringing in 4 horses in the end.
London Knights won the GCL Super Cup in 2021 as just like the Swans they started in the Semi Final but over both rounds in the Final they stuck to Le Blue Diamond and Olivier Philippaerts, his brother Nicola on Katanga van het Dingeshof and Emily Moffitt on Winning Good.
Finally in 2022, Miami Celtics emulated Madrid in Motion's approach to perfection. Just like the 2018 winners, Miami Celtics persisted with the same riders throughout their victorious journey. The Celtics started from the Quarter Final and fought their way to glory using the same riders throughout every stage of the weekend and with the same horses. Bertram Allen on Pacino Amiro, Michael G Duffy on Clitschko and Edouard Schmitz on Gamin van’t Naastveldhof.
Looking back at the 12 teams that have graced the podium in GCL Super Cup history, four teams have achieved this feat with just three horses, and two have ascended the top spot on the podium to claim the illustrious trophy.
As Thursday heralds the commencement of another GCL Super Cup, the spotlight once again falls on the equine partners who are poised to be the true game-changers throughout the thrilling four-day spectacle.