In a heart-stopping display of raw emotion, unyielding tension, and unparalleled skill, Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian has emerged victorious, claiming the coveted 2023 €6.5 million GCL Super Cup in a breathtaking showdown that will forever be etched into the pages of the history books.

Ben Maher stated that the GCL Super Cup had “Changed the whole dynamic of our sport.” An electrifying atmosphere permeated the air, setting the stage for an evening that would redefine the limits of equestrian sport. The arena pulsated with the rhythm of hooves, the collective heartbeat of competitors and spectators alike echoing through the night. Eoin McMahon with Mila, Christian Kukuk on Checker, and Philipp Weishaput with Zineday did the double, claiming the season Championship Title and being crowned GCL Super Cup Winners, leaving Valkenswaard United’s Marcus Ehning with Stargold, Gilles Thomas on Luna van het Dennehof and John Whitaker with Equine America Unick Du Francport in second place for a second year running.

Christian Kukuk said: “We have made history. The sport today was incredible. This is such a special event here, a special crowd. I have no words.” The highs and lows of the competition unfolded like a riveting drama, each jump, each turn, and each stride carrying the weight of not only personal triumph but also the destiny of the team. The pressure was palpable, the stakes unimaginably high, as riders navigated two 1.60m courses that demanded nothing short of perfection.

A rider giving his team member a high-five.

High five! (Stefano Grasso/LGCT-GCL)

The tension reached its pinnacle as Riesenbeck International faced off against Valkenswaard United down to the last fence. The crowd, with record numbers in attendance of over 39,000 people this week at Prague’s O2 arena, were on the edge of their seats, collectively holding their breath with each jump, a symphony of gasps and cheers echoing through the arena as Philipp Weishaupt and Zinady brought it home for the team.

Philipp, the final rider into the arena to contest the GC Super Cup Final, who jumped an immaculate clear round on the ultra-consistent Zineday, threw his helmet into the sell-out O2 arena crowd in Prague as he crossed the finish line in pure elation. Speaking to a full press conference, he explained the feeling he had as he galloped around the arena for the final time: “This is the best show in the world. It is such an emotional moment. What a show and what an environment here. The whole season, the fifteen events on tour with LGCT and GCL this year is one thing, but this one event stands above absolutely anything in our sport. This specific show here in Prague stands above absolutely everything – they are all great shows and events, but this specific show here makes both the Tour and League very, very special. It is the reason why we are working and getting up every morning to be here in Prague and deliver – it’s definitely the best indoor show in the world.”

He went on to add; “There’s been a lot of pressure for this entire season, the pressure of the Playoffs was immense. As I crossed the line it all just came out of me, imagine you are last in the ring, and it’s all in your hands, and you deliver it? It’s an amazing feeling, and actually, this is the reason we are doing the sport – and to be honest… it felt pretty cool.”

Supported by team manager, and show jumping icon Ludger Beerbaum, Riesenbeck International was powered for success. Speaking to GCTV, Ludger spoke of his team’s mental strength and raw talent. He said; “You couldn’t have asked for anything better. I think it is without a question, shows the skills they have. Of course, the pressure is one major factor – especially when you see today the final round, it’s not only mental strength and dealing with pressure. It’s of course skills and how you ride, how you perform, how you ride your horse… how you prepare yourself and your horse for each and every event throughout the whole season.”

Paris Panthers, the ultimate third-place getters in the 2023 GCL Super Cup Final, and not forgetting their 2nd place in the 2023 GCL Season Championship, had an outstanding year of top-class performances. Speaking at the press conference, Ben Maher thought back to the season as a whole, and the ultimate finale of the GC Prague Playoffs, he said; “We came here with the strongest team this week that we possibly could, to this type of finals, that Jan and the whole GCL Team has put together for the riders, it has changed the whole dynamic of our sport. We really came here trying to win, but Riesenbeck were just too good the whole year. With three unbelievable riders, we struggled to beat them the whole year, not just this year.”

President and founder of GCL Jan Tops smiles as he spoke of what Global Champions have achieved: “We never thought the concept of the Playoffs would work out this well. Most importantly for our fans, it is so easy to follow. They knew exactly when Philipp came to the last fence he had to be clear. Everybody was sitting on the tip of their chair – this was an incredible feeling. Not only the sport, the whole package here we are very proud of and it is thanks to the family Kellner and Jan Andrlik and his team.”

Valkenswaard United, five-time GCL Super Cup Final contenders, had the entire crowd, both at home tuned in via GCTV and in Prague, on the edge of their seats. Gilles Thomas spoke of the opportunity he has had to ride with his heroes this season as the U25 rider for the team. He said, “Actually, when you think about it, three or four years ago I was watching this on the television, and especially riding with John Whitaker and Marcus Ehning, they have always been my two inspirations. Now, riding as the U25 team member for Valkenswaard United on the GCL team series, I have the opportunity to be in the team and get the opportunity to ride alongside these people. It’s a dream come true.”

Madrid In Motion were on the back foot from the get go after collecting 32 faults in round one between the three riders. It continued to not go their way in round 2 as Mark Mcauley with GRS Lady Amaro, Jack Whitaker on Equine America Q Pavaratti N and Maikel van der Vleuten riding O’bailey Vh Brouwershof N.O.P. knocked themself out of contention for a podium position.

Home team Prague Lions, powered by Czech Equestrian Team, had the weight of the world on their shoulders as they entered the arena with the crowd supporting them every step of the way. First to go, Niels Bruynseels delivered the goods on Delux Van T & L with a superb clear. An unlucky three down for Fernando Martínez Sommer and High Five piled the pressure on. Pieter Devos and MoM’s Toupie de la Roque knew what they had to do and didn’t disappoint with an epic clear. So it was just a wait to see if they could squeeze onto the podium…

St Tropez Pirates started off strong with a clear from Marlon Zanotelli and VDL Grand Slam but with 12 faults carried over from round 1 the next two riders also had to go clear. It wasn’t to be for Gerrit Nieberg and Ben 431 with 16 faults giving Prague Lions a lifeline. Simon Delestre and Dexter Fontenis Z also had an unusual round with 12 faults and the team slipped behind Prague Lions.

Aiming for revenge after Riesenbeck International pipped them to the post in the 2023 overall season championship, Paris Panthers started off strong with a clear from Gregory Wathelet and Bond Jamesbond de Hay. Two down from Harrie Smolders and Uricas vd Kattevennen and a late fault from Ben Maher and Faltic HB put the team on 20 faults leaving the door wide open for the two teams to come.

Valkenswaard United’s team was second to none, aiming for one higher than last year. A flawless clear from both Marcus Ehning on Stargold and Gilles Thomas with Luna van het Dennehof put them right on top. An agonizing single fault from John Whitaker and Equine America Unick Du Francport gave Riesenbeck International one pole in hand as the last team entered the arena.

It was tense. With Ludger Beerbaum too nervous to watch from the kiss and cry, the team manager of Riesenbeck International, powered by Kingland Equestrian, entered the arena in style. Clear from Mila and Eoin McMahon kept them in the running. But there was drama when a rail fell for Christian Kukuk and Checker putting them on the same score as Valkenswaard United with one rider to go. Philipp Weishaput and Zineday not only had to go clear but fast if they wanted to secure the lions share of the prize pool. With everyone on the edge of their seats up until the last fence, Philipp kept all the jumps up and threw his hat into the air to celebrate the biggest victory.

As the dust settled on the arena and the echoes of triumph lingered in the air, Riesenbeck International stood not only as champions of the GCL Super Cup but as architects of an unforgettable evening that will be remembered as a pinnacle in the history of top-tier equestrian sport.

And with that the 2023 GCL season comes to an end..