Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – October 27, 2023 – During the highly competitive final GCL battle of the 2023 season, Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian emerged victorious, snatching the 2023 Championship from the Paris Panthers. They were crowned back-to-back champions, claiming the majority of the over €8.5 million Championship prize in Riyadh.
The focus was on renowned names, grand spectacles, and exceptional performers as Riesenbeck International showcased their best horses in their pursuit of winning the GCL Championship.
In Riyadh, Philipp Weishaupt (GER) aboard Zineday and Eoin McMahon (IRL) with Mila stole the show, shouldering the responsibility for their team by delivering an impressive performance under immense pressure. Guided by team owner and manager Ludger Beerbaum, the team led from the very first event of the year in Doha, and finally secured the top spot on the podium and earned the coveted title for a second year running.
The victory in the heart of Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District has added another illustrious chapter to Riesenbeck International‘s storied history. This victory further cements their reputation as a dominant force in the world of show jumping. His Highness Prince Abdullah Bin Fahad Bin Abdullah, President of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation, and Jan Tops, Founder and president of the GCL, presented awards to the grooms Lisa Fundis and Heather Field who also won the Championship for their team.
Jan Tops, spoke of the consistency, focus and resulting year-long success of the Championship winning team, he said: “The team from Riesenbeck, Ludger as team manager, and all the riders around him, they really deserved to win. They led from the first round, and they kept their cool, even when the Paris Panthers were breathing down their necks, and it was amazing how they kept everything together to the last moment which is not easy”
Uliano Vezzani (ITA) crafted an exceptional course, incorporating a challenging triple combination and a related distance in front of the VIP hospitality, proving to be one of the most impactful elements. A sold-out event with spectators filling the grandstands and converging at the shopping village, the top teams from around the world entered the arena for their last opportunity to secure rankings in this year’s Championship.
Heading into Round 2 with just three championship points between them, it was a level playing field as both Paris Panthers and Riesenbeck International were on a clean sheet after Round 1. As the two top teams went head to head Paris Panthers buckled under the pressure.
After a rail down each from Harrie Smolders (NED), riding Uricas v/d Kattevennen, and Ben Maher (GBR) with Faltic HB. Suddenly, it felt slightly easier for the Beerbaum team. But this didn’t last for long as a back rail came tumbling down for Eoin McMahon (IRL) and Mila meaning his teammate had to go clear and fast. Thriving under pressure Philipp Weishaupt (GER) delivered the goods with 9-year-old Zineday and punched the air as he crossed the finish line, knowing they had officially secured the 2023 GCL Championship Title.
Speaking after the win, a self-proclaimed ‘happy but tired’ Weishaupt spoke of the teams’ immense relief to have secured the title, he said, “When the pressure falls off, you feel drained, all our energy was on the round, and full of concentration for the day, or the whole year more or less. It is finally over and we couldn’t be more happy with how it worked out and how the whole day went today.”
Sitting alongside his team and colleagues, team manager and owner, Ludger Beerbaum, aptly told the Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian’s championship storyline. He said, “It is six wins, with leading the overall from the first competition to the last, most of the time with a comfortable margin with 20 to 30 points, it got tight at the end and Paris Panthers made it really exciting, but we’ve never had a team dominating the season more than we did this year.”
He then took a moment to turn to Weishaupt, Kukuk and McMahon, in a mark of respect to express his true gratitude. He finished with, “I am extremely, extremely proud of the guys here, I want to underline this – thank you guys, the class and the way of the performance throughout the whole season – it’s just outstanding. Thank you very much.”
With the Final stage of the 2023 Championship being all or nothing, Harrie Smolders (NED) and Ben Maher (GBR) of the Paris Panthers knew it was all to play for. A pin drop could have been heard with riders and spectators alike casting their eyes to the arena as the Championship contending team took to the arena in Round 2.
As the final fence fell for Harrie Smolders (NED) aboard Uricas v/d Kattevennen, the first of the two riders to jump, an audible gasp echoed around the arena. Ben Maher (GBR) ultimately added just one rail to the score sheet, which meant the performance just wasn’t quite enough. Speaking with Rosie Tapner and GCTV as the class concluded, Ben couldn’t sing the praises of his teammates enough. He said: “I saw a statistic earlier today that showed we [Paris Panthers] used 24 horses and all 6 riders throughout the season, so everyone contributed, so it’s really been a team effort for everyone that is here, but also the riders that aren’t here this week.”
Rounding off the Championship podium was Madrid In Motion’s Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) on Beauville Z N.O.P. and U25 rider Jack Whitaker (GBR) with Equine America Q Paravatti N, crucially ahead of Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses.
After learning of their third-place win Whitaker said to GCTV: “As a U25 rider, to be stood on this podium, is incredible. I am so grateful to our whole team who worked so hard to pull off this result, as well as our team owner Marta Ortega for giving me this opportunity on such a fantastic team.”
The top four teams in the GCL 2023 Standings earned direct entry to the Semi-Finals of the GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs gaining them a huge advantage for the €10 million Finale.
After an eventful season that saw the 2023 GCL Champion identified as Riesenbeck International, journeying from Mexico to Madrid, Miami Beach to Monaco, riders are now setting their sights on Prague for the ultimate final showdown of the year. It’s their final opportunity to vie for record-breaking prize money at the GC Prague Playoffs.
Final Results – Global Champions League of Riyadh CSI 5*
1) Riesenbeck International – 4 – 149.65
2) Stockholm Hearts – 8 – 142.92
3) Prague Lions – 8 – 147.12
Final Standings – 2023 Global Champions League
1) Riesenbeck International – 332
2) Paris Panthers – 318
3) Madrid in Motion – 274
Source: Press Release from Global Champions League
Photos: © LGCT – Jorge Cunha