Circus Maximus witnessed a thrilling turn of events as Championship leaders, Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland, buckled under the immense pressure allowing the Paris Panthers to significantly close the gap to just three points ahead of the highly-anticipated Finals in Riyadh after their second-place finish today. Istanbul Warriors powered by Carpe Diem, collected their first podium of the year after epic rounds from Efe Siyahi, Andreas Schou, and Abdel Saïd.

2023 Championship Standings Heading into Riyadh Finals:

Riesenbeck International: 302 points
Paris Panthers: 199 points
Madrid In Motion: 264 points
St Tropez Pirates: 237.5 points
Stockholm Hearts: 225.5 points

An ecstatic Laura Kraut told GCTV: “I am just thrilled, this is really exciting, I came here with a young horse and I wasn’t expecting Maikel to use me on the team but he said we have a bit of a situation so you are going to jump for the team so I am just really pleased I didn’t let the team down. This is a great team to be with and all horse people so Miakel said to me, you do the best you can do and that is all we can do.”

Teammate Maikel van der Vleuten added: “Beauville feels in great shape here and as we all saw it was a tough course. Laura and I tried to ride as strong as possible and our horses were really fighting for us today.”

Seeing spectacular growth in team performances, the season certainly isn’t over yet for Istanbul Warriors, with their keen eyes on the final and crucial stage of the 2023 GCL series in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. When questioned on the team’s celebrations, Abdel Said said: “For sure we will go and celebrate and enjoy, but the season is not finished yet. We want to have more podiums - hopefully next year even more podiums… we’re building for the future - it takes so long in this sport, it’s nice that it is now getting so consistent.. So I think for both of us, we are really happy.”

Adding to Abdel’s comments, team rider and owner, Efe Siyahi said, “All the horses jumped amazingly, all the riders did a good job, I think we are happy that we have finished on the podium.”

Amazing sport delivered

Interestingly GCL Rome saw a slightly new format as the course stayed the same over both Round 1 and Round 2, with the height just increasing by 5cm for Round 2.

Round 1 saw Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses, New York Empire powered by Lugano Diamonds and Istanbul Warriors powered by Carpe Diem all finish on a clean sheet. Four teams, including the home squad, Rome Gladiators powered by ClipMyHorse.TV entered Round 2 on 4 faults.

The 1.60m Round 2 track took some jumping as half the teams left the arena and no double clear was yet produced. Riesenbeck International, led by Christian Kukuk on Just Be Gentle and Patrick Stühlmeyer with Drako de Maugre, had been dominating the Championship race for most of the season, displaying remarkable consistency. However, during Round 2 in Rome, they faced unexpected challenges, resulting in a less-than-ideal performance. This unexpected final score of 28 faults ultimately allowed their fiercely competitive rivals, the Paris Panthers, to take full advantage.

Fueled by their competitive spirit, the Paris Panthers delivered a stellar performance in Rome, seizing the opportunity to climb up the rankings and intensify the championship race. Ben Maher on Point Break and Harrie Smolders with Monaco finished on a total of 8 faults in a rapid time to make the final showdown in Riyadh all the more thrilling, with fans eagerly anticipating a head-to-head battle between these two formidable teams.

Speaking of the team’s performance, Ben Maher noted their performances over the most recent stages of 2023’s GCL Championship race with it all coming down to strategy. He said, “We have been fighting back, and I think we have now been on the podium nearly every time in the last four or five stages, so we are pushing back.. We always said we would.”

Producing not only the first double clear of round 2 but also the only double clear, Madrid In Motion’s power duo of Laura Kraut on 9 year old Bisquetta and Maikel van der Vleuten with experienced Beauville Z N.O.P. put the pedal to the metal to leave the rest of the teams to go having to chase them down.

It wasn’t to be for New York Empire powered by Lugano Diamonds as their clean sheet quickly turned into a high score. Scott Brash and Frank Schuttert left the arena with a team total of 20 faults leaving it all to play for, for the Stockholm Hearts.

Last to go Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses had the perfect opportunity to leapfrog St Tropez Pirates into 4th place on the Championship table after they finished Round 2 with a total of 20 faults. Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Indiana picked up an uncluky rail as the shadows in the arena started to play a huge part. But it was unusual two down for Peder Fredricson and Catch Me Not S that dropped them just off the podium in fourth place as the fastest team on 12 faults and handing the win to Madrid In Motion.

The championship now heads to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for the climactic Finals where the stakes are higher than ever. Fans from around the world eagerly await the thrilling showdown between Risenbeck International and the Paris Panthers to find out who will be crowned the 2023 GCL season Champions!