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Panthers storm to edge-of-the-seat GCL Cascais win

Sunday, 17 June 2018
CSI5* LGCT Cascais 2018

Photo (c) Stefano Grasso/GCL. Gregory Wathelet and Darragh Kenny. Photo (c) Stefano Grasso/GCL.

The Paris Panthers’ duo of Gregory Wathelet and Darragh Kenny stormed to the win in the GCL of Cascais, Estoril. As the Keague gallops to the midway point, the Panthers pulled out all the stops amidst challenging weather conditions to convert their pole position from round one into a win - one of only two teams to do so this season - moving up an impressive five places in the overall rankings.

The battle for the top spot has tightened with teams looking to the GC Play Offs and GCL Super Cup, where only 16 teams will qualify to compete for an unprecedented 12 million euros in prize money. London Knights and Valkenswaard United look to be pulling away from the rest of the field, but there was movement up and down the rest of the field. Still in the lead on 174 points are the Knights, however United sit seven points behind, now on a tally of 167 overall. Shanghai Swans keep hold of third, with 127 points overall, with Miami Celtics and Scandinavian Vikings now just one point apart following the podium finish for the Vikings today.

With a full grandstand, clear blue skies and the shadows lengthening across the picturesque grass arena, the late afternoon competition saw top sport featuring thrills and spills, with unexpected results having a massive impact in the final standings.

Course designer Frank Rothenberger produced an impressive 1.55m track, once again allowing long galloping distances and utilising the full length and breadth of the arena. A scopey GC black and white oxer set as the riders passed the in-gate caught out a few, a double of oxers needed plenty of power and a gappy triple combination across the diagonal required scope, balance and pin point precision with strides.

First of the double clears from round one, Montreal Diamonds were hoping for a clean scoresheet but the first part of the double of oxers came down for Mark McAuley with Miebello (Flyinge Quite Easy x Cardento). Danielle Goldstein and Lizziemary (Cabri d'Elle x Acord II) also collected four faults, dropping them down to a score of eight and behind Valkenswaard United – sitting in the lead on the same score after round two. 

Rome Gladiators made a strategic change with Lorenzo de Luca stepping off the bench in place of Marlon Zanotelli. Riding the fiery stallion Halifax van het Kluizebos (Heartbreaker x Fetiche Du Pas), de Luca powered around the arena, managing the hot horse brilliantly and flying to the final fence on five strides to keep the team on a clean score. But it started to fall apart after Abdel Saïd and Jumpy van de Hermitage (Toulon x unknown) collected eight faults, dropping the team below Valkenswaard United.

Ranking leaders London Knights kept their GCL round one line up exactly the same, with Nicola Philippaerts and H&M Harley vd Bisschop (Dulf van den Bisschop x Coronado) and Martin Fuchs with Chaplin (Verdi TN x Concorde) taking centre stage. First to go Nicola Philippaerts piloted the dapple grey stallion around the arena, the powerful horse unfazed by the arena. They looked good for a clear until they clipped the final oxer, the pole rolling and adding four faults to the team score. An early pole for Fuchs meant the duo had to pick up the pace, to try beat United’s time for a podium position. The young Swiss star delivered, with the team on a combined time six seconds faster than United.

A clear from Christian Ahlmann and Clintrexo Z (Clintissimo Z x Rex Z) of Scandinavian Vikings kept the team in with a chance for a win. Leopold van Asten and VDL Groep Beauty (For Pleasure x Contender) flew around the arena, but a pole down meant they would stay on four, with only a clear or faster four from the final team robbing them of the win.

Final team to go, the Paris Panthers, were hungry for the win that had so far eluded them this season. Darragh Kenny picked up the reins first, guiding Balou du Reventon (Cornet Obolensky x Continue) masterfully around the arena to give teammate Gregory Wathelet the best possible chance of a team win. 

An early pole for Wathelet and his grey stallion Mjt Nevados S (Calvados Z x Romualdo) turned up the heat, as the experienced rider put pedal to the metal to deliver a speedier time. It would be just enough, the combined score two seconds quicker than the Vikings, meaning that the Panthers would take their first win of the season and a huge points haul.

“It was a very good result for us - we were in a good position going into today, we had the same thing in Mexico and we ended up third, so it’s good to finish on top today," said Darragh Kenny of the Paris Panthers. "It was important for us to have a good result today [for the overall rankings] - Gregory was fantastic on the first day, he left us with a really good round and score. Today worked out well!"

Kenny's team mate Gregory Wathelet added: “I knew what I had to do, but I wasn’t sure about the time. I had one down so I knew I had to push on for the time! For sure it’s been an amazing [weekend] for me, it couldn’t have been better [with two individual wins, a team win and 2nd in the LGCT Grand Prix of Cascais]."

The GCL now looks to round 9, and Monaco, as the fight for a place in the GC Play Offs intensifies. 

Source: Press release from GCL // Photo © Stefano Grasso/GCL

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