As night one of the GC Prague Playoffs unfolded, it was an evening full of high-stakes drama and shock eliminations in the nail-biting GCL Super Cup Quarter Final that saw Shanghai Swans storm into the top spot. It was Martin Fuchs riding Leone Jei, Christian Ahlmann on Mandato van de Neerheide, and Max Kühner with Up Too Jacco Blue that secured the team prime position for tomorrow.
Eight teams survived the dramatic knockout competition to take their place in tomorrow’s semi-final as sadly New York Empire powered by Lugano Diamonds and Rome Gladiators powered by CLIPMYHORSE.TV left the GCL Super Cup battle at this stage. It was also over and out for Mexico Amigos and Cannes Stars who had their dreams dashed on the very first day of the 2023 GC Prague Playoffs.
It was the Shanghai Swans that took the top spot today as one of two teams on 8 faults but in a faster time. Martin Fuchs told GCTV: “We all brought our Championship horses here, which are used to jumping the biggest fences out there, they have good stamina and all have had good preparation coming in here, we are going to make some changes to the team tomorrow, and then hopefully for the Final on Sunday, we are going to bring the freshest and the best horses with the best riders.”
Co-owner of the Shanghai Swans, Milena Pappas spoke of how proud she was of the team: “You have superstars on this team, you have super horses, you have team spirit, and we just want them to have fun… and if they have fun, they have all our support. What these guys do for us, they give their everything. When it is time to show up, they show up 110%… what else can you ask?”
It was an evening full of drama as the GCL Super Cup Quarter Finals are known for, with Riyadh Blue powered by Al Hihal proving their suiting to the indoor arena, securing second place as they were represented by David Will aboard My Prins Van Dorperheide, Abdulrahman Alrajhi with Babalou, and Abdullah Al-Shabartly with Kriskras DV.
Speaking with GCTV, the team’s fourth rider, Ramzy Al Duhami spoke of his admiration for his fellow team members. He said, “The result speaks for itself. They all gave it their best shot and rode really well. Now towards the end of the season, we can see Riyadh Blue powered by AlHilal is coming along. Another one to go tomorrow in the Semi Final and we hope it goes our way.”
In what could’ve been the curveball of the season, Valkenswaard United qualified to the GCL Super Cup Semi Final by the skin of their teeth. With an extremely uncharacteristic 12 faults from the traditionally ultra consistent Marcus Ehning on Prima du Roset didn’t put Valkenswaard United off on the best foot. A single rail added by Edwina Tops-Alexander aboard Fellow Castelfield left tension on a knife edge. 68 year old veteran John Whitaker entered the arena aboard Equine America Unick Du Francport, who also collected a single rail, ultimately leaving the team in a risky 7th place.
The stadium erupted when the home team Prague Lions, powered by the Czech Equestrian Team, earned their spot in the Semi-Final after a rollercoaster ride from their three teammates. With team member Anna Kellnerová on the kiss and cry with her stomach in her mouth, it all came down to the final fence of the third rider as the team ultimately finished in fourth position.
First to go, Monaco Aces, proved just how much the GC Prague Playoffs can turn a season around. After finishing last in the 2023 Championship they came home on 16 faults after their three riders in a rapid time to collect third place in the Quarter Final with Francisco José Mesquita Musa riding Carte de Blue Marathon, Sara Vingralkova on How Easy and Jeremy Sweetnam with Bogano surviving to fight another day.
Istanbul Warriors powered by Carpe Diem also finished on 16 faults to place in the top 5 after a flawless clear from the on-form Andreas Schou riding Darc de Lux. Team rider and owner Efe Siyahi, and Abdel Saïd brought it home for the team in the tricky indoor arena one pole ahead of St Tropez Pirates. The Pirates looked off to a solid start with just one down from Katrin Eckermann and Carla Mandia but two down each from Gerrit Nieberg and Marlon Zanotelli left them on 20 faults but crucially qualified for the Semi-Final.
The strategy completely changed for Scandinavian Vikings as they decided to risk it all going lightning fast. Luckily it paid off as they scraped into the semi-final in 8th place as the fastest team on 24 faults by over 14 seconds.
With the 2023 GCL championship’s four top-ranked teams fast-tracking their way straight to the Semi Final, today’s Quarter Final was a tricky mission for 8 out of the 12 teams to claim their place in the next round.
The season’s top four teams from the GCL Championship, Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian, Paris Panthers, Madrid in Motion, and Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses are back in the mix for tomorrow’s Semi Final.
All eyes now look ahead to the GCL Super Cup Semi Final where each of the 12 teams start back on a zero score and on an even playing field. tactics, strategy, and clear focus will be in order as teams battle for a place in Sunday’s GCL Super Cup Final.
Stream LIVE on GCTV.
Full results here.