Valkenswaard United’s pairing of Peder Fredricson and Edwina Tops-Alexander took a spectacular win in an edge-of-the-seat showdown at the GCL of Ramatuelle / Saint-Tropez, sharply cutting Shanghai Swans’ overall ranking lead.
Just metres from the beautiful Mediterranean shoreline at Pampelonne Beach, the action went down to the wire as the duo clinched victory, with the Shanghai Swans duo of Christian Ahlmann and Max Kuhner losing their pole position advantage and finishing second. The last spot on the podium today went to Nicola Philippaerts and Ben Maher of London Knights.
A smiling Edwina said "It is the first time I’ve ridden on the team this year and I am very happy to be with Peder and thankfully he went fast. I felt a little bit of pressure when I came into the ring because I heard the announcer say ‘It is all in the hands of Edwina’!"
Peder Fredricson added: "To be honest I thought we were going to be second today once we had ridden, but it was our day today and we were a bit lucky. Time is always important in these classes so it was on my mind throughout."
The result ignited the battle of the top teams as Valkenswaard United sit on 77 points only three points adrift of Shanghai Swans at the top of the GCL ranking with 80 points. Madrid In Motion sit in third place with a points tally of 51 as the Championship race heads to Valkenswaard at Tops International Arena next week 4 - 6 June.
French course designer Gregory Bodo put together a long, flowing but technical track for the GCL Ramatuelle / Saint-Tropez at the Longines Athina Onassis Horse Show, which saw faults come all over the arena. The triple combination proved one of the most difficult elements requiring exceptional precision and athleticism.
Following a clear on Thursday Sameh El Dahan and Suma’s Zorro were looking on great form coming into today’s showdown, but it wasn’t meant to be as they quickly added 16 faults to the already large total. Sven Schlusselburg came off the bench for the team with Bud Spencer. They also knocked the LAOHS oxer plus one other pole and a time fault and it was then a weekend to forget for the Cannes Stars as they finished with a total of 50 faults.
Another team to change up their players were the Hamburg Giants, with Rodrigo Giesteira Almeida opting to ride Delvaux for the second round of action in Ramatuelle / Saint-Tropez. Bart Bles kicked it off with a clear round for the team on the experienced stallion Fernando-H. Rodrigo put in an impressive performance, but agonisingly got deep to the pink oxer dropping the team to a total of 21.
St Tropez Pirates
On home turf and wanting to impress in front of local fans Olivier Robert and Vangog du Mas Garnier looked determined to better their performance as they set off. Unfortunately, it would be another 8 faults for the Frenchman bumping up the team total once again. Next up, Pieter Devos and the phenomenal mare Claire Z, had the lightest of touches on the back rail in the tipple and the team finished with a disappointing 29 faults.
Using the same plan as Doha and only jumping Delux van T & L on Super Saturday, Niels Bruynseels kept his cool and put in a foot-perfect clear once again for the team. With team manager Jessica Kurten watching on, Sergio Alvarez Moya added a stride to the triple combination forcing Alamo to have to stretch over the 1.55m wide oxer in the middle. Luck was on their side as the pair knocked the final fence, but it stayed up and produced the first double clear of the day.
U25 rider Andrzej Oplatek made a tactical horse change, opting to ride his 12 year old Stakkatan. They put in a flawless and fast round by taking a tight roll back to the GC upright, saving crucial seconds to keep the Celtics on their overnight score of 8. There was heartache for Johnny Pals and Fernando after an early pole fell and a risky long stride to the final fence cost them dearly as it came crashing down, the team closing with a total of 16 faults.
Keeping their pairing the same as Thursday, the first to go was Ludger Beerbaum and Mila - the combination just collecting one time fault which would prove costly in the final standings. Young talent Laura Klaphake brought back Bantou Balou Old, but the pink oxer fell along with the final fence to put the team on a total of 17 faults overall.
Confident in their selection from Thursday the Panthers made no changes. Nayel Nassar had an expensive fault in the final sector of the course with Lucifer V. The pressure was then on for Harrie Smolders and Monaco who had to go clear to keep Paris Panthers in with a chance of picking up some crucial ranking points. But the lightest of touches left them on 4 faults and with a team total of 16 after the two rounds.
After picking up an unusual 8 faults on Thursday, Ben Maher and Ginger-Blue were looking to redeem themselves under the hot sun of Saint-Tropez today. It was the final part of the triple combination that caught them out and put the pressure on teammate Nicola Philippeaarts. It was a rapid round from Philippaerts and the feisty mare Katanga v/h Dingeshof helping the Knights finish on the podium in third place.
Titouan Schumacher and Atome Z were another combination to get caught out by the long side triple combination and the final fence fell, finishing on a total of 8 faults. Unable to save the Falcons Philip Houston also had 8 faults on Sandros S Bella and the team had to settle for 12 place with 20 faults after both days of competition.
Madrid In Motion
Madrid In Motion fielded star striker Maikel van der Vleuten and Kamara van’t Heike for the crucial second round. The combination picked up an unusual 8 faults to drop the team down the scoreboard today. Michael G Duffy then added 5 faults to the total with Lapuccino leaving them on 17 faults and in 10th place.
The Aces kept the same strategy as round 1 fielding Jeanne Sadran first on Unforgettable Damvil. Shaving off time around the corners but opening up in between the lines, Sadran gave it everything she could until a late pole fell and 4 faults were added to their total. Next up Jos Verlooy was aiming for a slow and steady clear on Jacobien Dwerse Hagen but this tactic didn’t pay off as he knocked a fence and picked up one time faults catapulting the Aces into 5th place with 13 faults.
All eyes turned to James Wilson and Imagine de Muze who put in a foot perfect clear in their debut in the GCL Round 1 on Thursday. He rode a decent round with two undeserved poles falling to finish with 8 faults. Henrik von Eckermann took a flyer to the last fence on King Edward causing it to come crashing down along with their hopes of a podium finish today. The Vikings took 6th place overall with 16 faults, but in a fairly fast time of 135.54s.
New York Empire
New York Empire put in one of the strongest starting combinations of Shane Breen and Z7 Ipswich. They rolled a front rail mid-course and handed the reins over to Spencer Smith and Ayade Hero Z with a score of 4 on the board. The pressure got to Spencer and the combination couldn’t hold it together in the latter part of the course picking up 8 faults pushing the team total up to 16 faults for 9th place today.
With no changes to their horse or rider line up, Valkenswaard United fielded Peder Fredricson with his experienced H&M All In first. He knew time was important so opted for all the tight turns, but this proved costly as the GC upright fell piling pressure on teammate Edwina Tops-Alexander. Riding the fresh mare Identity Vitseroel, Edwina opted for the more conservative approach adding strides in everywhere, the lightest of touches meant she also picked up 4 faults and left the team with a total of 8 giving the Shanghai Swans room to breathe.
Christian Ahlmann and Solid Gold Z returned to the team today. They worked hard, but the tricky triple combination caught them out and they handed the baton over to Max Kuhner and Eic Coriolis des Isles with 4 faults on the board. Fairly Inexperienced at this level Eic Coriolis des Isles took it all in his stride. With just the final fence to go, in another moment of high drama in the team competition, the win was snatched away as the back rail came tumbling down and the Swans had to settle for second place today.
The Championship now looks to GCL Valkenswaard next week, 4 - 6 June 2021.