It was an electric weekend of top sport and entertainment at the iconic Monte-Carlo setting, finishing with a thrilling 9th round of action for the Global Champions League. Valkenswaard United took their third win of the Championship season so far, with Bertram Allen Izzy By Picobello and Eduardo Menezes with Caruschka taking pole position for the team at the stunning Monaco event.
Monaco Aces keep hold of their overall ranking lead with a tally of 217 points, with Valkenswaard United’s win today dramatically closing the gap to 214, just three points difference. With every result counting towards the final Championship result, each point gained becomes even more valuable as the teams battle it out to take the prestigious top spot ahead of the final event in Doha. The Rome Gladiators have claimed third on the rankings with 200 points overall, and following their podium today, the Antwerp Diamonds are breathing down the neck of their closest rivals, sitting on 196 points, and just four away from the top three.
The pressure was on the home team Monaco Aces for the Global Champions League of Monaco as the exciting new team completion made it’s debut in front of packed stands. In the previous 8 rounds, the team had only finished out of the top 4 on one occasion, making them one of the most consistent on the League so far.
The riders took to the smallest arena on the League calendar, where agility, speed and scope proved key to the final result. Rob Jansen’s course was a test that demanded both skill and careful jumping from both horse and rider, with the time allowed a challenge in itself. The related distances were fair, but add a stride and riders risked picking up a time fault as they flowed through the 1.50/1.55, course. Being drawn last to go in round 1 meant that Monaco Aces team riders Daniel Bluman and Schuyler Riley knew what was expected, stamping their mark on the competition by being the only team to sail through to round two on 0 faults.
Doha Fursan’s Faleh Suwead Al Ajami with Come Soon and Bassem Hassan Mohammed with Argelith Squid also jumped clear, however an unlucky time fault put them just behind the leading home team. Joining them would be the Antwerp Diamonds (4 faults), Rome Gladiators (4 faults), Valkenswaard United (4 faults), Madrid in Motion (5 faults), Paris Jets (8 faults) and Miami Glory (8 faults). The tight arena saw the delicate poles fall for the likes of Kevin Jochems of the Cannes Stars, and Vienna Eagles' Danielle Goldstein who both picked up 12 faults, pushing them out of contention for Round 2.
The iconic serene harbour set the backdrop for the exhilarating second round, with the latter part of the course altered for the finale. For the 8 teams through it soon became clear that faultless rounds were to be the defining factor in the results. The clears mounted with Scott Brash of Miami Glory, Laura Renwick of Rome Gladiators, Athina Onassis of Madrid in Motion, Daniel Bluman of Monaco Aces and both members of the Paris Jets, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Nicola Philippaerts all securing faultless second rounds. An unfortunate miss from Faleh Al Ajami saw team Doha Fursan Qatar out of the running.
The Paris Jets were the ones to watch as the competition came to its climax, however they were pipped to the podium on speed after Audrey Coulter and Jos Verlooy put in blistering rounds with their horses to finish on a combined time of 127.00 against Paris Jets’ time of 129.67s. Valkenswaard United's Bertram had all the pressure on his shoulders, however took it in his stride, riding a stunningly speedy clear with his relatively young 9 year old mare Izzy By Picobello to put them at the top of the leaderboard so far.
Yet it all came down to home team Monaco Aces as Schuyler Riley needed to keep their scorecard clear. But it was not meant to be with an unlucky 8 faults, pushing Monaco Aces off the top spot and into second place.
After two rounds, the top step of the podium was once again claimed by the blue and orange colours of Valkenswaard United. Second place went to the Monaco Aces, and third place to the Antwerp Diamonds. It is clear that the the overall battle for the 7.5 million euro championship prize is as close as ever, with just a three point margin at the top of the table. The League now heads to Paris for the 10th round of action in what’s turning out to be a fascinating competition.
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