Celtics Soar to GCL Paris Win As Ranking Battle Intensifies
The fastest of all: Lorenzo de Luca with Soory de l'Hallali Photo: Stefano Grasso/GCL

Celtics Soar to GCL Paris Win As Ranking Battle Intensifies

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Miami Celtics’ duo of Jessica Springsteen and Shane Breen powered to the win at GCL Paris, the team slingshotting their way into second in the overall rankings and just three points behind leaders the Shanghai Swans.

In a dramatic tightening at the top of the Championship standings, St Tropez Pirates sit just five points behind the Celtics (202 points) with a tally of 197, with the Shanghai Swans keeping hold of their lead and now with 205 points overall.

The Celtics were the only team to leave all the poles up today, taking the win from pole-sitters St Tropez Pirates with their formidable line up of Edwina Tops-Alexander and Pieter Devos – the pair taking second today. Third went to the Swans’ pairing of Daniel Deusser and Peder Fredricson, the formidable duo the only team to finish today with a completely clean score.

A smiling Shane Breen said: “It was a great competition, with everything so close.”

Teammate Jessica Springsteen revealed their tactics: “Shane and I were speaking before the class, and saying we might have to make up the time to win, but we saw a lot of faults so wanted to keep it together and ride for the clear. The points have been really close all season long, and we’re excited to be in the running. We’ve been consistent so we’re hoping to keep that up.”

Gregory Bodo set a technical course with plenty of options for the riders. The biggest question was the final line, a light Renault oxer set on a curving line with an option of seven or eight strides to the last fence – a big GCL double. The course featured a Massimo Dutti treble set down the alongside in front of the Eiffel Tower and towards the in-gate, and a formidable Longines double – the second element featuring a bright blue liverpool to catch the horses’ eye.

Speaking during the coursewalk of the live GC TV programme, Peder Fredricson of the GCL Ranking leaders the Shanghai Swans said: “It’s seven or eight to the last, but I think I’ll go for eight. As always [the team strategy is to] try to jump clear rounds. It’s quite a good track, big from the start – the course time is important but the key thing will be to leave the pole up – that’s the important thing today.”

Jessica Kurten, team manager of the Prague Lions, one of three teams on a clear score today, spoke of their tactics: “They’re in the position where they could take a podium. Having walked the course I think steady clear rounds are needed.”

Here’s how the action unfolded…

Hamburg Giants

The Hamburg Giants made a complete change to their line up today, testing a new combination for the first time. Simon Delestre brought out top horse Hermes Ryan, while Luis Sabino Gonçalves made his debut following the mid-season transfer. First to go Simon and the small but experienced Hermes Ryan powered around the arena, the liver chestnut horse flying over the fences. But the final element of the Massimo Dutti fell, adding another 4 faults to their overnight score of 22. Luis piloted the 11 year old Unesco du Rouet, but also came sundown at the Massimo Dutti treble, three fences falling. With a score of 38 it would be a weekend to forget for the Giants.

Doha Falcons

The Falcons made no change to their horse or rider line up, and Michael Whitaker was first to go with Strides Hilanasterne. They opted for a steady round, the pairing picking up just two time faults to put the team on 16 overall. Jur Vrieling also went for the steadier route with Davall, and they too left all the fences up – the team would finish on 16.

Cannes Stars

Karel Cox swapped to top horse Evert, but another two faults would see the Stars plummet to a tally of 20 faults. Star striker Margie Goldstein-Engle was brought in for this round of action in Paris, the American rider bringing out the huge  Dicas. They pulled out all the stops and produced the clear, but the team would fall behind the Falcons.

Paris Panthers

Home City team the Paris Panthers were another team to make a real shake up in their dynamics today, with Gregory Wathelet swapping to his top stallion MJT Nevados S and Darragh Kenny brought in with his 9 year old talent Classic Dream. Watched on by teammate Nayel Nassar and team manager Rob Hoekstra in the kiss n’ cry,  Gregory set off, looking to keep their overnight score of 8 faults intact. They produced the clear, passing the baton to teammate Darragh and Classic Dream. Darragh guided the bouncing chestnut horse carefully around the arena, team manager Rob’s words of a steady clear echoing in their ears. They looked as though they’d planned it to perfection but there was heartache at the final fence – the GCL vertical falling at the last moment to put the team on 12.

Monaco Aces

The Aces brought in U25 talent Jos Verlooy with top stallion Caracas for this round, the pair already an established combination and proving their worth this season. They pulled out all the stops, and produced the much needed clear for the team. Julien Epaillard and Usual Suspect D’Auge went all guns blazing but the LGCT oxer fell, as did the first part of the final double – the GCL oxer falling and plummeting the team to a score of 16.

Chantilly Pegasus

Roger-Yves Bost made a strategic horse change, replacing Sunshine du Phare with Sangria du Coty for this round of action. This paid off, and they produced a clear to keep the team on their overnight score of 8. But there was drama for Rene Lopez and Twig du Veillon as they picked up an early fault, and with the final fence falling, so did their hopes of a top end result today as they tumbled three places – the team finishing Paris on 17.

Berlin Eagles

The Eagles made no changes to their horse or rider line up with Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Lorenzo de Luca teaming up again. First to go Malin piloted H&M Indiana, the bay mare flying around the course with a sassy flick of her tail. But the final part of the Massimo Dutti treble fell, as did that troublesome final fence – the team were now on a score of 16 faults. Lorenzo brought out Soory de l’Hallali and they pulled out all the stops to produce a clear, the team staying on 16.

Madrid in Motion

Another team to make no horse or rider change to their line up were the Madrid in Motion, with first to go Michael G Duffy and Lapuccino 2 taking on the challenge. But the horse seemed distracted, and didn’t lock on to the big brown oxer in time – the back rail falling. The final part of the Massimo Dutti combination tumbled too and the team would drop down to 13. Next to go Maikel van der Vleuten was all about damage control, with his 17 year old stallion Verdi his secret weapon to do just that. They finished clear, Verdi doing his celebratory buck after the finish line, and the team closing their competition in Paris with a score of 13.

Shanghai Swans

Overall ranking leaders the Swans knew their Championship lead could be under threat, and brought in big guns Daniel Deusser and Peder Fredricson for this round of action. First to go Daniel drafted in top mare and LGCT Grand Prix winning horse Jasmien v. Bisschop, and their tactics paid off as they produced the much-needed clear. Next to go was Peder with H&M Christian K, the duo looking to keep a steady rhythm around the course. There were gasps as they took a tight line into the Massimo Dutti double, but the 12 year old bay horse delivered and they finished clear – the first double clear of the afternoon. The team would stay on 5 faults.

London Knights

Direct rivals to the Swans the London Knights opted to make no changes to their team combination, with U25 rider and team owner Emily Moffitt first to go with Winning Good. Despite her horse’s enthusiasm, Emily managed to keep him in check, but it came undone towards the final part of the course, the pair getting a little deep to the GC vertical and the following Renault oxer fell too – the team dropping to 12 faults. Martin Fuchs had all the pressure on his shoulders, but knew they couldn’t regain the ranking lead. An early pole for Martin and The Sinner would plummet the team further, and another fence at the Massimo Dutti combination, and the final combination, the team would drop to a score of 24 faults.

Valkenswaard United

No changes for Valkenswaard United meant new recruit Edward Levy would be first to contest the challenge with Rebeca LS. But there was disappointment as the RMC oxer fell as did the first element of the Massimo Dutti treble, dropping the team to a score of 12. Cian O’Connor piloted his 11 year old grey mare Irenice Horta but it all came apart, the pair picking upon uncharacteristic 17 faults – they would finish on 29 faults today.

New York Empire

Both riders in New York Empire made horse changes today, with Daniel Bluman first to go with his 10 year old gelding Entano. They looked incredibly strong, but there was heartache as the final fence fell, Daniel visibly gutted not to bring home the clear. Scott Brash brought forward his experience mare Hello M’Lady, the 13 year old bay mare flying over the fence and jumping her heart out for the British Olympian. They would deliver, finishing clear and keeping the team on their score of 8 overall.

Scandinavian Vikings

Hoping to keep their momentum following their first win last weekend in Monaco, the Scandinavian Vikings made two horse changes today. First up was Evelina Tovek who opted to ride Mill’s Sheridan for this round of action, but the Longines double fell, 4 faults added to put them on a score of 8. Christian Ahlmann brought forward Take A Chance On Me Z, the 10 year old stallion attacking the fences with focus and determination. Christian kept a steady, calm pace, and they produced a foot-perfect clear to keep the team on 8 – however their combined time was slower than that of New York Empire.

Prague Lions

First of those on a clean score, the Prague Lions made just one horse change to their line up today. First to go Marc Houtzager brought forward Sterrehof’s Calimero, with team manager Jessica Kurten and teammates Anna Kellnerova and Wilm Vermir all in their team shirts watching from the kiss n’cry. Marc and his experienced horse kept cool heads under pressure, bringing home the clear for the team – but picking up just one time fault in their quest to keep all the fences up. Niels Bruynseels knew he had to leave all the fences up with Delux van T&L, but there was heartbreak after the brown oxer fell. Now they would have to better the Swans’ speedy time to keep their chance of a win, or even a podium. They couldn’t do it, finishing behind the Swans on time with their score of 4.

Miami Celtics

The Miami Celtics knew a clean score today would keep them on the podium, and in contention for the win. Jessica Springsteen rode RMF Zecilie, and went for the steadier route – a clear at the forefront of her mind. They left all the poles up but fell just shot of the time allowed, a time fault added to their score. Shane Breen and Ipswich van der Wolfsakker knew they simply couldn’t roll a pole if they wanted a chance of keeping the lead. The pair pulled out all the stops, powering over the fences to finishing clear – their tactics for a slow clear adding just another time fault to their score. They would finish on a score of 2, but crucially in with a chance of the win.

St Tropez Pirates

St Tropez Pirates had all the pressure on their shoulders, with the team unable to roll a single pole in their effort to keep the lead. Edwina Tops-Alexander was first with Veronese Teamjoy, and the pair flew over the fences, taking the challenge in their stride. But the first part of the GCL oxer double fell, 4 faults adding to their score and dashing their hopes of the win today. Pieter Devos knew he had to finish clear to keep the team on the podium, and swapped to his experienced bay gelding Espoir for this round of action. The consistent pair delivered goods, finishing clear and keeping the team on their score of 4 – they would finish in second place.

Press Conference

Jan Tops, GCL Co-Founder: “The beauty with the teams is you can compose what you want every week and make different pairings. There are more than 10 teams who can win on the right day. You don’t have that in any other sport you can’t predict who will win. The top six teams in the league are so close I wouldn’t place a bet on who will win. It is fantastic to keep the tension until the last leg.”

Virginie Coupérie-Eiffel, President LPEJ: “I am very proud to have the [GCL] in this venue. We have had an amazing [competition] with great sport and a great audience. For me a great sport is the audience as well. The spirit of this evening it is a popular sport and to be understood by everyone. Thanks to your performance we have a wonderful time. Congratulations.”

Kim Emmen, Shanghai Swans, 3rd place: “I was a bit disappointed with my first round because I thought I could jump clear but [my horse] looked at a shadow. We made a good decision to jump Peder and Daniel today and it worked out because I had a time fault and they were clear. It’s really nice to be part of the [Shanghai] Swans – I get a lot of opportunities and if I ask for any help they are always willing to help me.”

Pieter Devos, St Tropez Pirates, 2nd place: “We were in the lead overnight and it gives a bit more pressure. Every competition there has been a lot of changing towards the end of the class with the faults. Edwina did a super round and had a very unlucky fault on the last fence. It put the pressure on me to go clear but my horse jumped very well. He is one of my best horses, I have confidence in him. We move up in the rankings so overall it was a very good weekend for us.”

Shane Breen, Miami Celtics, 1st place: “There was a bit of pressure on us. Helena [team manager] said to us before we jumped that both of our horses were jumping good so don’t worry about the time, just jump the jumps. Jessie had a fantastic round which gave me some confidence. I did know she had a time fault and I knew the Swans were on five faults. I just trusted the horse to jump clear and worried about the time after. We got the job done and it is nice to go from fifth to second in the rankings so we can lift our heads a little higher.”

Jessica Springsteen, Miami Celtics, 1st place: “Consistency is key, there are so many shows so staying consistent is best. That’s what we have done and it has worked out so we are really excited. We all worked together last year so had a strong start, everyone is very focused and working for the same goal – it is fantastic to be part of it. [The final round at] New York going to be amazing and we feel on track – feeling good.”