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Knights reign supreme and stretch lead after GCL London show stopper

Sunday, 05 August 2018
CSI5* LGCT London 2018

Photo (c) GCL / Stefano Grasso. Photo (c) GCL / Stefano Grasso.

The London Knights delivered a show stopping GCL London final under intense pressure with Ben Maher and Nicola Philippaerts reigning supreme at the historic and picturesque Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Escorted by the Chelsea Pensioners in their traditional Scarlets, the red jackets of the Knights perfectly complimented the veterans’ uniforms as they proudly took the top step of the podium today - their fourth win of the season and the only team to win at their home event. Today’s result means the team have extended their overall ranking lead, where they now sit on 299 points, pulling away from closest rivals Valkenswaard United on 261. Miami Celtics have moved up to third, with 206 points in their bag as they look to qualify in the top four for the GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs.

The 13th leg of the 2018 GCL saw top sport come down to the wire in Great Britain's capital city. Just a stone’s throw from the River Thames and under bright blue skies, fans packed into the covered grandstands, waving British flags patriotically as well as London Knights emblems with local spectators rooting for their home team.

Uliano Vezzani produced a tricky and technical course, a real test for the teams as they battled to keep a clear combined score. The Longines double set across the arena and a treble set down the long side caused a few problems, as did the delicate Sapinda vertical. A huge London Underground triple bar looked imposing but caused no serious problems, but it was the final line that caught out many - a gappy flower filled oxer away from the in-gate before a water tray lined vertical to finish.

Spectators cheered their home city team the London Knights, as they entered the arena, proudly sporting their scarlet jackets but focused on keeping the team on a score of zero. Watched on by U25 rider Emily Moffitt, first to go Nicola Philippaerts piloted top stallion Chilli Willi (Casall x Lord) around the arena, the impressive horse eating up the ground with his huge stride and clearing the fences effortless to keep his team in the best possible position.

All eyes turned to home hero Ben Maher, the rider swapping yesterday’s mount Winning Good (Winningmood van de Arenberg x Sir Corland) with the 9-year-old chestnut Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet). Fans held their breath as the British rider jumped a foot perfect clear, delivering another show stopping round to help the Knights collect their 4th victory of the season. ​Shanghai Swans ended second with Daniel Deusser and Shane Sweetnam on the team, and Miami Celtics third with Shane Breen and Denis Lynch riding Saturday's round.

Nicola Philippaerts, of winning team London Knights, said: "I think we did a great job again today, the horses jumped really good and the team is very consistent. We have quite a few combinations that are making a good shape and Ben always does the job, I can be happy with my horse as well - he is jumping great at the moment. My horse is a bit slower than Ben's horse, so most of the time I go first, then he can do his own round. It has been working well so far so hopefully we can do it for three more shows."

Ben Maher, London Knights, said: "The secret is having great riders and great horses. We have tried to be strategic and pick the right horses for the correct arenas. Nicola gives a lot of credit to me but really our whole team has been amazing. We have used every rider on our team many times and every week they are producing, so it makes it easier. The whole team has confidence in the plan and what we do. 

"I don’t think you can ever expect anything or take anything for granted. This is the biggest tour in the world with the best horses and riders in the world. As Jan said there is some big prize money up for grabs. We have a 38 point lead but we are not going to hold back, we will still press for next week. We have a good plan, but we want to really try to get one more good result on the board next week. Then there is a bit of a break before Rome and Doha. So it will be nice to go into that three week break in the lead and give the horses a rest. Every result counts on this Tour. We try to keep three riders at every competition in case we have to make a substitute for any reason. You only need one mistake in the arena and don’t finish then you get zero points and you find the other teams can capture so we just keep our heads down and keep working away.  

"I think there is always pressure and anyone who says they done feel the pressure I don’t believe. Nicola made my job a lot easier today, he produced a great clear. You don’t have much time to process how the competition is going with the back to back riders. I did a quick calculation in my head just before I went in and knew I had 75 seconds. I finished 74.5 seconds so timings was good with a little bit of luck. Just in case I had a mistake in the last line, which was a hard line to jump. Explosion is naturally a fast horse but nerves go away a little bit when you ride a horse like this."

Press release from GCL

Picture © GCL/Stefano Grasso

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