In a unique pairing, never before seen in competitive show jumping, the two world-class athletes teamed up for the GCL to blow the competition out of the water today at Tops International Arena, delivering a phenomenal performance with their horses Dicas and Firkov Du Rouet.
A happy Eric Lamaze spoke after their round: „It’s fantastic! When I knew Margie was riding here I knew I had to be on my game as she’s an incredible rider. My plan was initially different, and to go much slower, but after the first couple of fences I thought ‘no, this is how it’s going to be’.“
A smiling Margie said: „It’s the first time we’ve ridden on the team together, we’ve only ever raced against each other before and have competed against each other many times on the circuit, so it’s great to be competing together. It’s lovely to be on a team together.“
When asked about their chances of a win tomorrow, Eric said: “Yes! I’m confident!” while a laughing Margie said: “I hope so. If I can keep up with [Eric] then I’m happy!”
Uliano Vezzani put together a fast-paced, daring course – allowing the riders to pick up speed around the galloping expansive sand arena, but requiring absolute control over powerful oxers followed by delicate verticals. The colourful fences lit up the arena, with obstacles including a blue bicycle vertical, a Stal Tops pictured oxer and a colourful horse head oxer. A beautiful wooden windmill gave riders the option of turning outside or inside to take on a formidable painted horse oxer.
With the magnificent ‘spider’ tower watching over the arena the threat of rain held off, and fans watching from around the world were treated to a thrilling display of horsemanship from the 16 GCL teams.
Here’s how the action unfolded…
New York Empire
U25 rider Spencer Smith and his 12-year-old gelding Theodore Manciais were the first to take on the Uliano Vezzani track, and they looked supremely confident – making the course look deceptively effortless as they delivered the first clean score on the board today. Daniel Bluman brought out Ladriano Z for the first time on the team competition, and they too attacked the course with determination. Much to the delight of teammate and team owner Georgina Bloomberg, they too delivered the clear – the team would keep a zero score today.
Carlos Lopez opted for a steadier pace for the Chantilly Pegasus, adding strides between fences one and two to keep Ulhane de Conde in check. But the front rail of the Stal Tops oxer tumbled, four faults added to the Chantilly Pegasus’ score. Francois Mathy Jr took the GCL treble combination on an angle, but it was a touch too much for the pair and the second vertical fell, putting the team on a score of 8 overall.
Speed demon Julien Epaillard was clearly under team orders today, riding for a steady clear with Virtuose Champeix. The liver chestnut stallion responded beautifully to Epaillard’s requests, and they produced a clear to keep the team in touch. Jerome Guery and Quel Homme de Hus took a massive leap over the first oxer, and soon settled into a flowing rhythm around the expansive arena. They too brought home the much needed clear, but their combined time was slower, slipping them behind New York Empire.
There was disappointment for Miami Celtics after new signing Christophe Vanderhasselt and Identity Vitseroel brought down the final part of the GCL treble, plus picked up a costly time fault, the team dropping to a score of 5 faults so far. Teammate William Whitaker and RMF Cadeau de Muze crashed through the skinny Stal Tops vertical, the 11 year old bay horse punching out the poles. The penultimate oxer also tumbled, the team plummeting to a score of 13 overall.
Christian Kukuk was first for the Berlin Eagles, the 10 year old Quintino his choice of ride today. But the first part of the colourful double fell, an unlucky 4 faults added to the Eagles’ score. Ludger Beerbaum and Cool Feeling knew they had to finish clear, and despite the pressure they brought home a perfect result – keeping the Eagles on their score of 4.
Harrie Smolders and Cas 2 set off with purpose, the pair determined to help the Paris Panthers rise back up the rankings. They flew around the arena, taking each challenge perfectly in their stride and keeping the forward momentum throughout. They pulled out all the stops, finishing with a speedy clear for the team. Nayel Nassar and Lucifer V were the next to go for the Panthers, but the first part of the double came down, an unlucky 4 faults added to the Panthers’ score. They were, however, the fastest of the 4 faulters, meaning they could start in a strong position tomorrow.
New signing for the GCL Ranking leaders Gudrun Patteet made her debut in the Championship with her bay 11 year old stallion Sea Coast Valdelamadre Clooney. Despite the pressure on her shoulders, Gudrun and her horse delivered the clear, despite a brush of the final bicycle fence – passing the reins to Olivier Philippaerts. With two of his top horses in action this weekend, the young Belgian brought out H&M Extra – but the penultimate oxer rolled as brother and teammate Nicola Philippaerts watched on in dismay from the kiss n‘ cry. Olivier shook his head in disappointment. The team would finish on 4 faults today.
First to go for the Lions was Neils Bruynseels with Ilusionata van’t Meulenhof – a new equestrian face on the Championship. Despite the brave strategy of fielding two new horses from team manager Jessica Kurten, the pair left all the fences up, jumping with plenty of scope and coming home with zero faults despite running close to the time allowed. Marc Houtzager also debuted a Sterrehof’s Dante in the GCL. They too opted for a steady clear, with the pair bringing home a clean score for the Lions and the third team to finish with zero faults heading into Saturday’s showdown.
Marcus Ehning piloted A la Carte NRW for the first time this season in the GCL. Despite a wobble to the second fence, the home team rider rode the 11 year old stallion beautifully, delivering a round that was smooth as silk to give United their first much needed clear. Alberto Zorzi took on the challenge with the big striding Cinsey, daring the stallion to the fences. But the first part of the double fell yet again, the team coming home on 4 faults.
St Tropez Pirates
Edwina Tops-Alexander and Veronese Teamjoy soared around the huge sand arena, surviving a lucky tap at the infamous double. They came home clear, the mare leaving those watching in no doubt of her scope and talent. Pieter Devos brought out top chestnut gelding Apart, the Belgian rider taking the tighter lines to the fences and coming inside the windmill structure. The pair produced an effortless clear, with the Pirates slipping just behind the Aces on their combined time.
Filou Carlo Zimequest and Simon Delestre led out the Hamburg Giants, but an early pole – the skinny Stal Tops vertical – put the duo on the backfoot. Another pole at the penultimate oxer would see the Giants cut down to a score of 8, with Bart Bles and Israel v.d. Dennehoeve still to jump. All they could do was deliver a clear for the team to keep the Giants in with a chance tomorrow, and they pulled it off – the team would finish today on 8 faults.
Evelina Tovek and Winnetou de la Hamente Z set sail for the Scandinavian Vikings, the pair taking on the track with every forward stride possible. Beaming with delight Evelina crossed the finish line clear with teammates Henrik von Eckermann and Geir Gulliksen watching from the kiss n’ cry. Christian Ahlmann brought out his consistent 10 year old stallion Take A Chance On Me Z and they proved why they are such a cornerstone of the team with another solid clear and slotting in just behind the Pirates.
Jur Vrieling and Davall drifted towards the second fence, adding strides to make it 9 to the second obstacle, but kept it together to deliver an impressive clear for the Doha Falcons. But agonisingly they picked up a time fault, the best position the team could finish in today would be sixth if teammate Bassem Mohammed and Gunder came home clear. Despite the pressure, the produced the goods, keeping every fence intact and keeping the Falcons in touch with a chance of a podium tomorrow.
Madrid in Motion
Dutch superstar Eric van der Vleuten brought out top horse Wunschkind 19 for the first round of action at GCL Valkenswaard. They looked on song for a flawless performance but the final bicycle vertical just toppled out of its cup – 4 faults would be added to the team score. Son Maikel van der Vleuten was next to go piloting his 11 year old dark bay mare Idi Utopia. But there was further heartache as the second part of the colourful double fell. The team would finish on a total of 8 overall.
Margie Goldstein-Engle teamed up with Eric Lamaze for the first time in history, a unique pairing for the Cannes Stars. First up Margie took on the track with gusto, piloting Dicas around the course at a gallop and taking every forward stride. They attacked the course, taking out strides left, right and centre to fly to the finish clear and fastest of any combination so far. Eric Lamaze also took on the challenge with Firkov du Rouet – the pair also attacking the track and shooting around the arena to finish clear and setting a record time. Remarkably the duo’s speedy combined time saw the Stars finish an incredible six and a half seconds faster than any team – Eric punching the air in delight with his team’s performance as they took over the lead.
Last to go the Swans brought out their A-squad, the formidable line-up of Daniel Deusser and Peder Fredricson played up front for the first round of competition in Valkenswaard. First to go Daniel brought out Killer Queen VDM – the first appearance for this horse on the Championship this season. They went for a steadier pace, clearly a double clear the team order of the day, and delivered. Peder Fredricson also brought out a new equestrian face for the team, the Swans superstar riding Catch Me Not S – a 13 year old grey gelding. But one fence dashed the Swans’ hopes of a clean score today and they would finish on 4 faults.