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Unstoppable Valkenswaard United takes the 2016 Global Champions League title

Friday, 04 November 2016
GCL Doha 2016

Photo GCL / Stefano Grasso Valkenswaard United took the 2016 Global Champions League title. Photo GCL / Stefano Grasso.

Valkenswaard United took the 2016 Global Champions League title, with winning riders John Whitaker and Bertram Allen declaring the first ever GCL season “fantastic” as the team combatants vowed to go into battle again in 2017.

Throughout the 15 leg series, the team - John Whitaker, Bertram Allen, Emily Moffitt and Eduardo Menezes - remained consistently at the top of the overall rankings, racking up a record four wins. The blue, white and orange team secured the lion's share of the €4.5 million bonus in a dramatic night under floodlights at the magnificent AL SHAQAB, a member of the Qatar Foundation.

A dramatic first round of the final left only two teams in contention for the overall title after an exit by one of the favourites. Heartbreakingly, Monaco Aces dropped out of the title race after Daniel Bluman and Apardi clocked up 12 faults despite team mate Leopold van Asten’s clear round on VDL Groep Miss Untouchable, with the team strong contenders going into the final.

John Whitaker and Bertram Allen of Valkenswaard United picked up four faults apiece leaving the team just scraping into the second round in eighth place, while closest rivals Antwerp Diamonds carried through four faults from Harrie Smolders as teammate Jos Verlooy jumped clear.

The first round result meant the Global Champions League remained on a knife-edge right until the last moment, as Antwerp Diamonds and Valkenswaard United faced each other in round two to see who would make history with the first GCL title.

Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Nicola Philippaerts of Paris Jets performed clears rounds, leaving them with an enviable clean sheet going into round two. Laura Kraut and Laura Renwick of Rome Gladiators and the heavyweight Cannes Stars combination of Roger-Yves Bost and Marco Kutscher also pulled off faultless rounds under the pressure, leaving them on a zero score. Joining them would be the Cascais Charms duo of Andreas Kreuzer and Philip Houston, Shanghai Swans’ Janne-Friederike Meyer and Alexandra Thornton and Danielle Goldstein and Lauren Hough for the Vienna Eagles.

The stunning floodlit arena of AL SHAQAB was the perfect backdrop for the final stages of the Global Champions League, as the team riders took to their horses for the final time in the 2016 season. The explosive growth of show jumping in Qatar, continues and tonight Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, brother of the Emir of Qatar, was at Al Shaqab to see the GCL final and national riders of all ages competing.

First to go in the second round, John Whitaker, put in a speedy clear with his top mare Ornellaia, throwing the gauntlet back down to the Antwerp Diamonds and keeping their hopes alive. The pressure was on the U25 rider Jos, who then picked up a further four faults, putting the two teams on an equal score. An anxious wait ensued as the GCL of Doha played out before the next 2nd team riders took their turn, with the pressure rocketing sky high as it all came down to the final rounds. Friend and rival Bertram Allen rose to Jos' challenge, but an unusual refusal from Romanov saw Valkenswaard United drop back down the order, with the pressure heaped back onto the shoulders of final Antwerp Diamond, rider Harrie Smolders.

Knowing he had to jump clear to be in with a chance of winning the title, the Olympic Dutch rider flew around the challenging 1.50/1.55m course with top stallion Emerald N.O.P., but rolled a pole at the penultimate fence putting the team in third. This meant Valkenswaard United would claim the overall victory in what has been a rollercoaster of a season battle, with the formidable combination of John Whitaker and Bertram Allen contributing to three of the team’s four wins this year.

The Doha leg of the GCL was won by Paris Jets with Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Nicola Philippaerts blasting away the opposition, jumping double clear a full seven seconds ahead of the rest of the field. The slow but steady tactics of Cannes Stars saw them take second in the Global Champions League of Doha. 

"I think it has worked really well. We tried to help each other out today. I was really disappointed with my fence down and that put pressure on Bertram to get a fast clear to keep us up there. We only just made the second round. I jumped clear and I thought: ‘we are in with a shot’ again. I’m very relieved to win, we have had a great season. Bertram had the speed when we needed it. That’s what it is all about," John Whitaker of Valkenswaard United said after claiming the title. 

"It’s been brilliant, it’s been a long season. We were battling out the whole year, it’s been a fantastic [season]. If you’re not consistent and fully revved up and concentrate, you have a bad result and that will compromise the end of the season,” Bertram Allen added.


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

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