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Knights crank up pressure with “perfect start” to GCL Final in Doha

Thursday, 08 November 2018
CSI5* LGCT Doha 2018

Photo (c) Stefano Grasso/GCL Nicola Philippaerts and H&M Chilli Willi for the London Knights. Photo (c) Stefano Grasso/GCL.

London Knights threw down the gauntlet to their closest rivals today, executing powerful double clears in the opening round of the high pressure finals of the 2018 Global Champions League. 

Nerves were clearly on edge in the high stakes competition ahead of Saturday’s showdown to decide which teams go to the GCL Super Cup at the new GC Playoffs with over €10 million in prize money. 

Calculations were rife as GCL team riders, managers and owners worked out where they needed to finish to achieve the best possible shot at the Playoffs on Saturday. The top teams had their sights on finishing in the top four of the overall ranking ensuring they are fast-tracked to the semi finals of the Playoffs avoiding the quarter final stage. Only 16 out of 19 teams go to the Playoffs and there was a desperate battle to avoid the relegation zone.

The Knights’ formidable duo of Ben Maher and Nicola Philippaerts stayed cool and ended on a clean score sheet in the fastest combined time to put them into pole position for Saturday’s major contest. They have been leading the season ranking consistently and are currently 23 points ahead of Valkenswaard United. Ben said: “It was a perfect start to the weekend. It was quite a big course today for that first round, but we had a good plan and we have great horses in the team.”

Rome Gladiators were the only other team to achieve double clears with no time penalties in Doha thanks to high calibre performances from Laura Kraut and Lorenzo de Luca putting them in second spot on the grid. De Luca said: “We really needed this result and look forward to Saturday for a good end to the Championship. Our goal of the weekend is to fast track to the semi finals (at the Playoffs) and that is why we borough our three best horses.”

Fortunes rose and fell for the GCL teams. Valkenswaard United’s Marcus Ehning and Alberto Zorzi suffered four faults each pushing them down the order. Home city team Doha Fursan Qatar finished third and Miami Celtics maintained their form to come in fourth.

The clock is now ticking and the teams have less than 48 hours to make strategic decisions on which riders and horses they will field in the GCL Round 2 on Saturday at 14:30 local time.


Press release from Global Champions League

Photo © Stefano Grasso/GCL

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