Championship fever intensifies as back-to-back wins help Berlin Eagles close down on Stockholm Hearts
The battle for the 2022 GCL Championship has intensified with Berlin Eagles powered by Fundis dramatically closing the gap to overall ranking leaders Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses.
Berlin Eagles’ Ludger Beerbaum and Philipp Weishaupt powered to back-to-back victories at GCL Valkenswaard after a pivotal weekend in the Championship fight where Stockholm Hearts now only lead by 2 points. The super consistent pair of Mila and Coby shot round in record-breaking times to win the team maximum points.
With no clean sheets on the board after yesterday’s drama-filled class, it all came down to time in the 12th stage of the season. It is a two-horse race to the season finish with Hearts and Eagles making it thrilling entertainment for the public. Stockholm Heart’s female firepower took light today in the expansive grass arena at Tops International arena. Smooth and fast clears from Malin Bayard-Johnsson on H&M Indiana and Lily Attwood with Cor-Leon vd Vlierbeek Z put them just 1.03s behind the time of Berlin Eagles to take second.
The celebrations couldn’t start straight away for Ludger Beerbaum as he competed in the second arena at Tops International Arena. Philipp Weishaupt did the winner's interview on his own where he explained: "We knew this week we had to put the pressure on and concentrate on the time more. Ludger gave some gas and I know Coby is a fast horse. If we want to win overall we have to bring our best horses to every stage. It is amazing to ride in this grass arena at Tops International Arena but it is not just the arena it is everything around as well, the stables, the truck parking, the warm-up - there is just so much room here it is so horse-friendly built."
Speaking for the Stockholm Hearts, Lily Attwood smiled: "We are pleased with the second but Berlin Eagles are gaining on us now. Malin and I both watched Philipps' round and he was too fast I don’t think we could have got the win today."
Rome Gladiators’ pairing of Shane Breen and Nina Mallevaey secured bronze today helping the team jump up three places on the standings while Madrid In Motion due to their elimination fall three places. And the drama didn’t stop there as pole sitters Paris Panthers buckled under the pressure once again to fall to 5th overall after a costly rail from Nayel Nassar and El Conde.
Commenting on the curse of going last, Paris Panthers team manager Rob Hoekstra said: "We have no explanation, the horses jumped great Nayel rode a great round was just unlucky the horse bucked in the line where it is difficult to recover and Darragh had a great clear but it was just no good for us again. It has been the story of our season, we just can't get lucky."
Top 4 teams after 12 stages:
Stockholm Hearts: 239
Berlin Eagles: 237
Shanghai Swans: 201
Prague Lions: 190
Uliano Vezzani’s course was a thoughtful, flowing track, using the full width and breadth of the grass arena. The Italian course designer provided the riders with plenty of options, with choices of strides to many of the combinations, and the chance to take tight turns. With only 13 teams taking part in Round 2 it was all to play for and the teams knew it.
The pressure proved too much for the Prague Lions, the team so desperately hoping for a strong result today. One down each for Pieter Devos who swapped on to Nascar van 't Siamshof and 8 faults from U25 Brian Moggre and Mtm Vivre le Reve meant they too would finish down the order today.
All eyes turned to Valkenswaard United, the home team looking to deliver the double clear. First in was Edwina Tops-Alexander with the consistent Fellow Castlefield, the pair flying around the arena for a flawless clear. John Whitaker took to the arena riding Equine America Unick du Francport and made it the start of another thrilling GCL event as they produced the goods to keep the team on their overnight score of 12 faults and keep fighting for a spot in the top 4.
Shanghai Swans put forward anchor Christian Ahlmann with Dominator 2000 Z installing confidence in the team with yet another clear before mid-season signing Marlon Zanotelli and VDL Edgar M took to the arena also securing a clear and their chance of a good points score to finish 4th overall.
The pressure was on the Rome Gladiators with team owners watching on. Shane Breen and the enthusiastic stallion Vistogrand clearing the fences effortlessly, slow but clear. U25 Nina Mallevaey made a strategic horse change, now riding Crack d'La Rousserie, the pair also opting for a steady pace. The pair delivered to shoot to the top of the leaderboard and eventually get them their third podium of the season.
So the Heart’s keep their overall ranking lead heading into the final three stages of the Championship, with Berlin Eagles in second and both teams looking strong ahead of the next round in Italy's capital city next week. The GCL Championship race now heads dirctly to Rome from 2 - 4 September and the 2022 season hits a new level.