Show jumping's most iconic duo of John Whitaker and Marcus Ehning rode to the top for Valkenswaard United in a drama-filled GCL of Hamburg. Holding off enormous pressure to sail to the team’s first win of the season and beat Madrid In Motion’s Jack Whitaker and Mark McAuley by over 3 seconds.
All three teams on the podium finished with just a single rail down over the two days of jumping as Cannes Stars duo Johnny Pals and Jens Baackmann collected their second third-place podium of the 2022 season in a nail-biting showdown, keeping the packed grandstand on the edge of their seats.
John Whitaker laughed: "I was just trying to think positive and jump clear. Marcus had a really unlucky fault but you have to keep fighting and my horse is on form and I rode it quite good. It’s good for the team, we needed this boost."
Teammate Marcus Ehning explained: "The pressure was on because we haven’t done too well over the last stages. But John is used to it so I thought I would put him under some more pressure and he pulled it off again. Picking up maximum points for the championship is so important and this gives us a lot of hope for the next shows."
Setbacks make the best comebacks, and the current GCL Ranking leaders, the Berlin Eagles, finished fifteenth after an unusual 19 faults from Ludger Beerbaum and Mila. They remain at the top of the championship on 119 points but Stockholm Hearts made a staggering rise up from 14th place over night to 9th to now sit in second place with 109 points. After a shock elimination today Hamburg Giants sit on the same points as Madrid In Motion after their untouchable performances in Hamburg both with 105 points.
Fighting for the championship lead it was a gut-wrenching last fence down for Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses', Lily Attwood and Cor-Leon v. Vlierbeek Z. Teammate Olivier Philippaerts and Le Blue Diamond v.T Ruytershof produced a flawless clear round keeping the team on 13 faults.
Two-time winners of the GCL Hamburg stage St Tropez Pirates needed to ride a double clear in Saturday’s showdown to climb the ranks. Michael Pender on HHS Calais did exactly this but the lightest of touches mid-course from Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM put them out of contention today.
Once again the daring duo of Johnny Pals and Jens Baackmann showed their pure class in expansive grass arenas by staying on their overnight score of 4. Riding the two greys Charley and Nomanee respectively the pair came home on a double clear and secured another podium.
Madrid In Motions' young gun Jack Whitaker and Equine America Valmy de la Lande secured a double in a fast time helping them land on the podium alongside Mark McAuley and Cap West.
The youngest team, New York Empire, who had been second overnight, had a tough day at the office. Jodie Hall Mcateer recorded 8 faults on Kimosa van het Kritrahof after a miscommunication at fence two but it was a lightning-fast clear from Harry Charles and Casquo Blue meaning one less rail and they would have won.
In Hamburg, it all came down to the wire in the climax of the GCL team contest. First to go for Valkenswaard United, Marcus Ehning put in a sensational time but one down meant it was only a clear round from John Whitaker and Equine America Unick du Francport that could ensure his team stayed atop the leaderboard. Keeping their exact same lineup as round one and the gelding responded to every question asked of him in fine style to convert their pole position into a win!
The GCL Championship race now looks to Cannes where last year’s season champions Valkenswaard United will be hoping to ride their wave of success with another strong result.
Text + photo: GCL