Drama. Emotion. And 6.5million Euros. The Stakes were high at the LGCT Prague Playoffs
Monday 20 November 2023
“One rail down and it is one million less in prize money… the pressure was immense,” said Philipp Weishaupt, on the €6.5 million on offer for the Global Champions League Super Cup Final at the end-of-season Longines Global Champions Tour Prague Playoffs.
In a heart-stopping display of raw emotion, unyielding tension, and unparalleled skill, Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland Equestrian emerged victorious, claiming the coveted 2023 €6.5 million GCL Super Cup in a breathtaking showdown that will forever be etched into the pages of the history books.
Ben Maher stated that the GCL Super Cup had “Changed the whole dynamic of our sport.” An electrifying atmosphere permeated the air, setting the stage for an evening that would redefine the limits of equestrian sport.
The arena pulsated with the rhythm of hooves, the collective heartbeat of competitors and spectators alike echoing through the night. Eoin McMahon with Mila, Christian Kukuk on Checker, and Philipp Weishaput with Zineday did the double, claiming the season Championship Title and being crowned GCL Super Cup winners. It left Valkenswaard United’s Marcus Ehning with Stargold, Gilles Thomas on Luna van het Dennehof and John Whitaker with Equine America Unick Du Francport in second place for the second year running.
The tension reached its pinnacle as Riesenbeck International faced off against Valkenswaard United down to the last fence. The crowd, with record numbers in attendance of over 39,000 people this week at Prague’s O2 arena, were on the edge of their seats, collectively holding their breath with each jump. A symphony of gasps and cheers echoed through the arena as Philipp Weishaupt and Zineday brought it home for the team.
Philipp was on an emotional high: “This is the best show in the world. It’s such an emotional moment. What a show and what an environment here. The fifteen events on tour with LGCT and GCL is one thing, but this one event stands above absolutely anything in our sport, it is very, very special – the best indoor show in the world.
“There’s been a lot of pressure the entire season, but the pressure of the Playoffs was immense. As I crossed the line it all just came out of me, imagine you are last in the ring, and it’s all in your hands, and you deliver it? It’s an amazing feeling, and to be honest… it felt pretty cool.”
Paris Panthers, the ultimate third-place getters in the 2023 GCL Super Cup Final, and not forgetting their 2nd place in the 2023 GCL Season Championship, had an outstanding year of top-class performances.
Ben Maher thought back to the season as a whole, and the ultimate finale of the GC Prague Playoffs,
“We came here with the strongest team this week that we possibly could, to this type of finals, that Jan and the whole GCL Team has put together for the riders, it has changed the whole dynamic of our sport,” he said. “We really came here trying to win, but the Riesenbeck team were just too good the whole year. With three unbelievable riders, we struggled to beat them the whole year, not just this week.”
Aiming for revenge after Riesenbeck International pipped them to the post in the 2023 overall season championship, Paris Panthers started off strong with a clear from Gregory Wathelet and Bond Jamesbond de Hay. Two down from Harrie Smolders and Uricas vd Kattevennen and a late fault from Ben Maher and Faltic HB put the team on 20 faults leaving the door wide open for the two teams to come.
Valkenswaard United, five-time GCL Super Cup Final contenders, had the entire crowd, both at home tuned in via GCTV and in Prague, on the edge of their seats. Gilles Thomas spoke of the opportunity he has had to ride with his heroes this season as the U25 rider for the team.
“When you think about it, three or four years ago I was watching this on the television, and especially riding with John Whitaker and Marcus Ehning, they have always been my two inspirations,” he said. “Now, riding as the U25 team member for Valkenswaard United on the GCL team series, I have the opportunity to be in the team and get the opportunity to ride alongside these people. It’s a dream come true.”
Valkenswaard United’s team was second to none, aiming for one higher than last year. A flawless clear from both Marcus Ehning on Stargold and Gilles Thomas with Luna van het Dennehof put them right on top. An agonizing single fault from John Whitaker and Equine America Unick Du Francport gave Riesenbeck International one pole in hand as the last team entered the arena.
It was tense. With Ludger Beerbaum too nervous to watch from the kiss and cry, the team manager of Riesenbeck International, powered by Kingland Equestrian, entered the arena in style. Clear from Mila and Eoin McMahon kept them in the running. But there was drama when a rail fell for Christian Kukuk and Checker putting them on the same score as Valkenswaard United with one rider to go. Philipp Weishaput and Zineday not only had to go clear but fast if they wanted to secure the lion’s share of the prize pool. With everyone on the edge of their seats up until the last fence, Philipp kept all the jumps up and threw his hat into the air to celebrate the biggest victory.
Jodie Hall-McAteer claimed second in the 5* 1.50m with her HOYS Grand Prix winner Hardessa.
Thirty-nine riders contended this class with 13 producing initial clear and accessing the jump-off, Jodie and the Berlin x Kashmir Van Schuttershof 11-year-old jumping another clear to slot into the runner-up spot 1.14 seconds behind the winner, The Netherlands’ Frank Schuttert and Isis.
LGCT Prague Playoffs, Czech Republic – 19 November, 2023
GCL Super Cup Final
1st Riesenbeck International – 4/4 - 210.36 seconds
2nd Valkenswaard United – 4/4 - 213.94 seconds
Marcus Ehning & Stargold – 0/0
Gilles Thomas & Luna Van Het Dennehof – 4/0
John Whitaker & Equine America Unick Du Francport – 0/4
3rd Paris Panthers – 8/12 - 211.84 seconds
Gregory Wathelet & Bond Jamesbond De Hay – 0/0
Harrie Smolders & Uricas V/D Kattevennen – 0/8
Ben Maher & Faltic HB – 8/4