Scandinavian Vikings secured their first ever GCL win after Evelina Tovek and Geir Gulliksen kept cool heads under enormous pressure as the last riders to go in a high-octane competition in Monaco.
There has been a dramatic shake up in the overall rankings, with just four points separating the top three contenders as the Shanghai Swans – now with 184 points – regain the lead from the London Knights who tumble to third with 180 points overall. Madrid in Motion’s consistent result means they have leapfrogged the Knights, and are now sitting in second with 181 points.
In a tightening at the top, just three points separate the following teams, with the Monaco Aces and St Tropez Pirates on 175 points apiece, and Miami Celtics breathing down their necks with a tally of 172.
A beaming Geir said: “When [Evelina] jumped clear it made it easer for me – both horses jumped amazing today, we deserved this. I played it safe to the final fence [picking up a time fault], as I know it’s not over until the fat lady sings!”
When asked about how it felt to take their first win of the season, an emotional Evelina said: “It’s an amazing feeling.”
In the tenth round of action in the Championship race, the teams and riders headed to the smallest arena on the circuit, set in the shadow of the Monaco Palace. Nestled between superyachts and the Formula 1 pitlane, the teams contested a technical challenge as the sun began its slow descent over the mountain, while a cool breeze blew in from the sparkling Mediterranean sea.
Frank Rothenberger set a short but fast course, with the first fence – a delicate La Casino vertical testing the world’s best horse and rider combinations from the first stride. The course featured a new fence – not yet seen this weekend – an imposing “wall” in the shape of the Monaco Palace, which gave the horses plenty to look at. A Massimo Dutti oxer, a light Tennor plank set towards the in-gate and two doubles required maximum precision. The curving, flowing course featured a wide red and white Monaco oxer down the final line, with a liverpool underlined Longines oxer to finish.
Here’s how the action unfolded…
Both riders on the Cannes Stars opted to change their horses, with Jane Richard Philips bringing forward her more experienced 13 year old Dieudonne de Guldenboom. With the team’s R1 score of 19 faults weighing heavily on their minds, Jane and Dieudonne de Guldenboom set off at a calm, steady pace, the Longines Ambassador of Elegance working hard to keep her enthusiastic horse under control. But there was drama at the Longines double after her horse jumped her out of the saddle, and she slipped sideways, falling from her horse and meaning the team would be eliminated.
The Celtics pulled star striker William Whitaker off the bench, with the British rider bringing out RMF Cadeau de Muze. William kept a smooth and flowing pace, steadying the bay gelding between the fast-approaching fences. They finished clear, passing the reins to last year’s LGCT Grand Prix of Monaco winning combination, Shane Breen and Ipswich van de Wolfsakker. Despite a little hesitation at the Massimo Dutti oxer, the solid pair delivered, with the team finishing on double clear and with an anxious wait to see how far up the results they could go with a final score of 16 overall.
With their scarlet GCL ranking lead armbands, the London Knights looked determined to pull out a double clear today. First to go was team manager and anchor Ben Maher with the 9 year old F One USA, the impression stallion full of scope and enthusiasm. The horse became a little strong to the Tennor plank, and it came down, four faults added to their overnight score of 16. Teammate Martin Fuchs made a horse change, bringing out top grey gelding Clooney 51. Watched on by multiple Olympian Markus Fuchs, Martin and Clooney 51 looked determined as they took in the course before setting off at a canter. But there was heartache as the first fence, the La Casino vertical, fell – the team would tumble to 24 faults in a weekend to forget for the Knights.
Watched on by Mary-Kate Olsen of The Row, the Eagles knew only a clear would help their chances today. With no changes to their horse or rider line up, Christian Kukuk was first to take on the challenge, riding his eye-catching stallion Limonchello NT. They strategised, aiming for a steady clear, and the pair delivered their end of the deal – with teammate Ludger Beerbaum and Casello next to go. The German maestro piloted his 16 year old chestnut gelding, the experienced pair keeping a smooth rhythm throughout the course. They too delivered a clear, the team finishing on a total of 15 overall, also with an anxious wait to see if they could rise up the results list.
Another team to make no horse or rider change, the Swans only changed up the order of their riders. First to go was the slower Kim Emmen with Teavanta II C Z, meaning Pius Schwizer would know exactly what he would have to do time wise as they looked to take back the Championship lead. The pair finished clear, and just within the time allowed, as Pius entered the arena with Cortney Cox. The naturally fast duo set off at a pace, taking out a stride to the Tennor plank. They pulled off a foot-perfect clear, the team hoping to regain the Championship lead this evening.
Marcus Ehning was first to compete for Valkenswaard United, bringing forward his 9 year old chestnut mare Mill Creek Filippa K. With a R1 score of 10 faults, Marcus opted for the longer lines with his less experienced horse, giving her as much time as possible in the fast-paced arena. But the penultimate fence fell, the Monaco oxer just foiling their clear after the mare clipped the front rail with her legs. Teammate Frank Schuttert once again chose to ride top stallion Queensland E, but the GC Prague Playoffs plank fell after they clipped it with a hind leg. The team would drop to a score of 18 overall.
Jur Vrieling and KM Chalcedon would be the first to take to the track for the Doha Falcons, but there was a nail-biting moment after Jur asked his 9 year old grey horse to go inside the Tennor plank, the horse stuttering almost to a stop but not crossing his tracks before they quickly recomposed themselves to take the outside longer route. They would finish clear, with Bassem Mohammed and Gunder next to take on the challenge. Following a fall yesterday, Bassem was hampered with a knee injury but didn’t show any signs of reduced performance as they finished clear, keeping the team on a score of 9 overall. The Falcons would have a real chance of rising to the sharp end of the grid after their stellar performance.
The Lions selected to bring Wilm Vermeir off the bench for this round of action, Wilm bringing with him top horse Iq van het Steentje. The Belgian rider kept every turn smooth, finishing just inside the time allowed, but crucially clear for the team. Marco Kutscher brought back Chades of Blue, the 11 year old bay horse looking on strong form. The tried to keep the tempo up, taking out a stride to the Tennor plank – they finished clear, but the team were slower than their closest rivals the Falcons.
Madrid in Motion
Father and son duo Eric and Maikel van der Vleuten opted to make no changes for the Madrid in Motion team. First up was Eric with Djoost Again, the 11 year old bay horse naturally quick around the arena. They stumbled after the AirFrance oxer, but regained composure quickly to pull out a spectacular clear. Teammate and son Maikel had the pressure on his shoulders to deliver a fast clear to put the team ahead of the Falcons, the Dutch rider carefully selecting his lines with Beauville Z to try make up time. They too finished clear, but couldn’t match the Falcons’ combined time, slipping behind with 9 faults overall.
The Panthers made no changes to their horse or rider line up, with Yuri Mansur first to go with Carlson. But the first part of the GCL double came down, the team plummeting to 12 faults and three teams down from their starting position. Next to go Nayel Nassar knew he had to deliver a fast clear with his experienced horse Lordan – the 15 year old bay gelding keen to the challenges. Fast between fences, Nayel took smooth curving lines around the corners, keeping the team on their score of 12 overall.
New York Empire
After a rollercoaster season so far, the New York Empire team badly wanted a strong finish here today in Monaco. First to go was Denis Lynch and GC Chopin’s Bushi, but the GC Prague Playoffs plank fell, the team score falling to 12 so far. Watched on by team owner and teammate Georgina Bloomberg, Hans-Dieter Dreher and Prinz were next to take up the mantle, but there was further heartache after the first fence, the La Casino vertical fell. The final fence also tumbled, the Longines oxer falling along with the team’s hopes of redemption. New York Empire would finish Monaco with a score of 20 overall.
St Tropez Pirates
The St Tropez Pirates made a strategic rider change, with star striker Edwina Tops-Alexander and top mare California brought in for the team. But the GC Prague Playoffs plank fell again, the team dropping down to a score of 12 overall. Teammate Lucia Le Jeune Vizzini and her big scopey stallion Loro Piana Filou de Muze took on the challenge, knowing the best they could do would be to deliver a fast clear. They finished with a faultless score, but their time was not as quick as the Panthers, and they finished today with 12 faults and behind their rivals.
U25 rider Constant van Paesschen impressed during R1 with his 10 year old chestnut stallion delivering a clear for the team. Constant worked hard to keep the stallion’s shape and power, balancing him to the fences to give themselves the best chance possible of bringing home another clear. And they delivered, keeping the team score of 6. Next to go teammate Rene Lopez had all the pressure on his shoulders to pull off a clear, knowing it would keep them at least on the podium. With 12 year old bay mare Histoire D O, the pair opted for a slower round – clearly aiming for the much needed clear. The second part of the GCL double came down, as did the GC vertical, the team dropping to a score of 14 overall and off the podium.
Home city team Monaco Aces had a extra boost from the crowd as they headed into the second round today. The team made a strategic switch, bringing in on-form Julien Epaillard in place of Marlon Zanotelli for this high-octane competition. Laura Kraut was first to go on the 10 year old Curious George, with a steady clear on their mind. They finished just milliseconds inside the time allowed, four tenths to be exact, producing the clear and keeping the team on their score of four faults. Julien Epaillard brought out speed horse Usual Suspect D’Auge, but also opted for the longer lines – looking for a team double clear to keep them on the podium, and vying for the win. But the first part of the GCL double fell after Usual Suspect dropped a hind leg, the team on 8 faults overall.
Final team to go the Scandinavian Vikings had all the pressure on their shoulders, the only team to go into today’s second round clear. Evelina Tovek made a horse change to Dalila de la Pomme, but the pair had a heart-stopping moment at the first – a lucky rub keeping them in with a chance of the win. Team owner Geir Gulliksen had a two fence cushion with VDL Groep Quatro, but looked hungry for the clear, the Norwegian rider focused and determined as they rode to the first fence. Geir too opted for the longer routes, giving the small horse plenty of time to lock on to the fences and clear them effortlessly. And they did it, finishing with just one time fault to take their first win in the history of the team.
The Championship now looks to Paris, France, for the 11th round of action on the circuit. The first round kicks off this coming Thursday under the Eiffel Tower, with all eyes on the teams as they gallop towards the second half of the season.
Jur Vrieling, Doha Falcons, 3rd place: „I think since the last show we are getting better but were not so lucky. Bassem was incredible and [hopefully] the only way is up from now on. We’ve gained confidence.“
Laura Kraut, Monaco Aces, 2nd place: „I think we are pleased with second today and even if we jumped a double clear we wouldn’t have won. All of Monaco and [the team’s] supporters are pleased – the support is amazing, and it’s been a brilliant show, everyone is happy and it’s been a great weekend.“
Evelina Tovek, Scandinavian Vikings, 1st place: „I brought my newer horse for a good experience and I’m very happy to produce a clear round. [My horse] is amazing and means a lot to me, this is our first win [for the Vikings] so means a lot.“
Gier Gulliksen, Scandinavian Vikings, 1st place: „It was fantastic, we had such a good chance as the only team coming in clear. If you think too long [in advance] about the podium and prize giving you can lose concentration so it’s better to be safe than sorry. We produced the goods today!“