The London Knights stamped their authority on the first leg of the 2020 GCL team series after a last minute drama crushed the hopes of closest rivals St Tropez Pirates.
Twin brothers Nicola and Olivier Philippaerts emerged triumphant in the opening GCL competition of the new season with an impressive clean score sheet and an unbeatable time. Paris Panthers, featuring Gregory Wathelet and new signing Penelope Leprevost, were the only other team to produce a full set of clear rounds giving them a well-deserved second place.
Speaking just before the prize-giving ceremony under the soaring architecture of the Longines Al Shaqab Arena, Olivier Philippaerts said, “The pressure is on. We have won the last two years, but we started off with a win so that gives great motivation for the next few shows. The season is still very long but we choose our best horses for the events and we hope to do well again in the Super Cup, all the teams work towards it.”
Nicola Philippaerts said, “It’s really cool to win with my brother for the first time. We’re very happy, both horses jumped very well. It’s very nice to have a kick off here and win straight away in Doha.”
The Berlin Eagles, also with a strong new signing in German rider Philipp Weishaupt, finished third on four faults.
After GCL Round One, the St Tropez Pirates were in pole position starting on Saturday, March 7. However, star striker Pieter Devos dramatically put them out of contention when his mare Claire Z refused at the narrow white wall leaving new teammate Daniel Deusser to deliver a necessary clear round to keep them in the top tier finishers.
After a blistering GCL season last year, team owners and managers decided to field their heavyweights to try to gain maximum advantage at the first event of 2020. It was a clear sign of the intense motivation to get ahead in the early stages of the high adrenaline GCL team championship. Spectators, including hundreds of Qatari and international children, watched their show jumping idols up close from the impressive grandstand and ringside cafes as the event continues to grow in popularity as a regular fixture on the Doha sporting calendar.
Jan Tops, Founder and President of LGCT and GCL, said, “The sport, everything, is just fantastic. It was a repeat from last year, London Knights won the overall very strongly last year and again we have the same team, great riders and they started off the season again with a amazing result. All four rounds were clear.”
Saturday’s results set the stage for the next legs of the GCL which will play out in the breathtaking destinations of Mexico City and Miami Beach. Record prize money of over €37 million is on offer in the 2020 LGCT and GCL season, with over €10 million alone in one weekend for teams in the GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs in November.
To view the full results, click here.