Saint Tropez, France – June 02, 2023 – As the sun shone down on the spectacular Ramatuelle, St. Tropez, the GCL turned it on for the fifth stage of the GCL season for 2023, and 99th stage of GCL ever. In an exhilarating equestrian extravaganza it was Scott Brash (GBR) and Spencer Smith (USA) of New York Empire, powered by Lugano Diamonds who took their first win since 2019.
Strategic changes with horses and riders in between Round 1 and Round 2 resulted in an impressive double clear for Scott Brash (GBR) aboard Hello Jefferson and Spencer Smith (USA) and Theodore Manciais, and left them ahead of Championship leads Madrid In Motions Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and Eduardo Aznar (ESP).
After making his comeback from injury Ben Maher (GBR) proved just why he is a crucial member of Paris Panthers bringing home a clean sheet securing the Panthers the final spot on the podium with teammate Gregory Wathelet (BEL) just having a single rail but slower than New York and Madrid.
Long standing New York Empire team member Scott Brash (GBR) explained: “This is fantastic for the whole team, we are delighted for Georgina [Bloomberg], she’s really backed the GCL for many years so it is brilliant to get a win for the New York Empire. It’s been a while since our last win. Both rounds were big, and both rounds were tough as we saw with no teams on double clear. ”
Team rider and owner Georgina Bloomberg (USA) plays a crucial role in the success of New York Empire, Spencer Smith explained: “I think Georgina is the biggest part of our whole team, you know, we are obviously New York Empire for her home town, she’s riding on the team, and our last win was with her on the team – she’s the one that clutched the win for us there. She’s kind of the captain, and just a super person – she adds a lot to it. This is a great win for all of us, we have a top group of guys and girls, and Georgina has really been great supporter of the team, and rides on it.”
Just meters from the glistening waters of the Mediterranean Sea in the iconic French Riviera, 16 GCL teams took on Grégory Bodo’s (FRA) challenging yet fair courses over 2 rounds at the 5th stage of the season.
Nestled in the stunning coastal town of Ramatuelle the GCL team class was set against the picturesque setting of golden sands, azure waters, and a gentle breeze carrying excitement in the air. The French Riviera provides an exquisite backdrop for this unparalleled sporting spectacle, where the teams competed fiercely for glory. Set against the stunning Mediterranean coastline, the atmosphere was truly electric as spectators gathered to witness these exceptional athletes.
With a lively social scene, the GCL of St Tropez, Ramatuelle was not only a celebration of sport but a unique opportunity to immerse in the glamour and elegance of the French Riviera lifestyle. With a captivating blend of fierce competition and family-friendly entertainment, fans enjoyed an unforgettable day of thrills and excitement. From the heart-stopping moments to the nail-biting rounds, every was on the edge of their seats.
Round 1 was kicked off in spectacular style by two teams who earned themselves last to go in Round 2. Omer Karaevli aboard Policeman 2, and Abdel Said (BEL) aboard Arpege du Ru were the first two riders to go, with two stylish clear rounds posted.
Valkenswaard United with John Whitaker (GBR) aboard Equine America Unick du Francport and Oliver Lazarus (RSA) with Butterfly Ennemmel at the helm were the second of two double clears in Round 1.
Round 2 saw eight teams heading into the arena on four faults, with two with clean score sheets, leaving no room for error, and edge-of-your-seat viewing both here under the southern French sun, and from around the world live on GCTV.
It was a stunning clear round from Anna Kellnerova (CZE) and Niels Brynseels (BEL) for the Prague Lions putting the pressure on teams to come as they finished on 4 faults but in a fairly slow time putting them just off the podium in 4th place overall.
Shanghai Swans young gun Jeanne Sadran (FRA) delivered her first clear round for the team this season as her father punched the air on the kiss and cry. It was a heartbreaking and surprising single time fault from Daniel Deusser (GER) and Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z knocking them below Prague Lions even though they finished on exactly the same time.
As Philipp Schulze Topphoff (GER) entered the arena for Riesenbeck International, all eyes were on the current second place holders in the Championship standings, and winners of the Mexico stage. With the first fence down, and two more to follow left the team on 12 as the ever consistent Christian Kukuk (GER) and Mumbai entered the arena. Producing a classy clear round, leaving the team in seventh place.
Late in the class with everything potentially on the line, Madrid in Motion took to the arena with Eduardo Alvarez Aznar (ESP) and Maikel Van Der Vleuten (NED). A remarkable and quick double clear proved a masterclass with all those following today’s class pushed the duo to the top of the leaderboard with four teams left to come.
Heading into Round 2 as season championship leaders, Paris Panthers consisting of Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Bond Jamesbond de Hay and Ben Maher (GBR) and Faltic HB needed a double clear round to put them in level with the Prague Lions in first place. Having just jumped his career 60th clear GCL round, Ben Maher (GBR) did the double in his return to GCL after injury. Coupled with a clear for Wathelet, the team finished on 4 faults.
New York Empire powered by Lugano Diamonds saw strategic changes with horses and riders in between Round 1 and Round 2 resulting in an impressive double clear for Scott Brash (GBR) aboard Hello Jefferson and Spencer Smith (USA) and Theodore Manciais after just a single rail from Frank Schuttert (NED) and Nikisa V. Bisschop in Round 1.
Enter home team: St. Tropez Pirates – fighting for the podium. Round 2 ultimately wasn’t theirs to claim. Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli (SWE) with Kalinka van de Nachtegaele, and Simon Delestre (FRA) aboard Dexter Fontenis Z left the arena with 24 faults to the team’s name and 10th position.
Two teams to go. Two teams on 0 penalties.
Valkenswaard United entered the arena with John Whitaker’s (GBR) experience and Oliver Lazarus’ (RSA) standout performance from Round 1. An unfortunate collection of rails from both Lazarus and Butterfly Enamel and Whitaker and Equine America Unik du Francport saw the team finish on 17 faults and in 10th position.
But it wasn’t to be for last to go Istanbul Warriors as Abdel Said (BEL) and Bonne Amie picked up 10 faults even though it was a flawless clear from Omer Karaevli (TUR) and Maurice handing the win to New York Empire.
So efficiency was key, and that the duo on the starting grid for New York Empire produced. Two tight, tidy and clear rounds saw the team soar to victory.
As the sun set in Saint-Tropez, the GCL Championship heats up as it moves along to the second French Riviera destination for 2023, Cannes, where the 100th ever stage of GCL rolls out the red carpet from 8 – 10 June.
Final Results – Global Champions League of St. Tropez CSI 5*
1) New York Empire – 4 / 0 = 4 / 126.63
2) Madrid in Motion – 4 / 0 = 4 / 127.86
3) Paris Panthers – 4 / 0 = 4 / 129.14
Source: Press Release from the Longines Global Champions Tour
Photos: © GCL / Stefano Grasso / Ljuba Buzzola