GCL London: London Knights in pole position to defend title on home turf

The London Knights catapulted themselves into the best position possible on home turf in London today after Ben Maher and Olivier Philippaerts pulled off flawless performances.

With their two top horses, Explosion W and H&M Extra, the pair wowed the crowds, setting themselves up to repeat their victory of 2018 at the beautiful Royal Hospital Chelsea. Only four teams managed a double clear today, with Valkenswaard United, St Tropez Pirates and current ranking leaders Miami Celtics hot on the heels of the Knights.

Ben Maher praised his top horse Explosion W, with the chestnut gelding producing yet another clear for the team:

He jumped great. He felt good, he felt fresh, so we’ll have to have a talk after this and see what the plans are for tomorrow. But the team’s in top position; we are last to go tomorrow. We did everything we could today, so hopefully it continues. I hope we’re standing here tomorrow.”

GCL of London – Team London Knights – Ben Maher (GBR) on Explosion W
London, Royal Hospital Chelsea- 2 August 2019 Image credit Stefano Grasso/GCL

Olivier Philippaerts explained that they would still have plenty to do however to achieve that goal:

The best teams, for the moment, are still up front, so clear rounds today was not enough; tomorrow we have to do the same to move up the spots. I think Miami [Celtics] and St Tropez Pirates [are ones to watch] – for sure they have good teams here and they’ll be ready to win tomorrow.”

The first day of competition in the heart of London kicked off under blue skies and perfect conditions. Fans enjoyed the shopping village and lined up for selfies with the Brooke charity’s mini stars Lala and Alfie, the miniature pony and donkey.

TV personality Rory Bremner, who is also a supporter of Brooke, urged visitors to the event to visit their stand and help the fundraising effort of the equine welfare charity. He also joined the GCTV live studio and spoke of the special venue:

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That’s the genius of the Global Champions Tour – you get the best horses, the best riders and the best locations in the world, like here. I’m so into it, I even watch the tractors go round!”

TV Presenter Clare Balding was among guests at the show and said:

It’s perfect, a perfect location.  Taking show jumping into the major cities means so many more people get the chance to watch it. I can sit and watch Ben Maher and Scott Brash ride all day long. Getting to just watch it as a fan is very nice. Genuinely I look at the rota for GCT and if I was 20 and starting again it is what I would want to be doing Global Champions Tour. It is perfect taking it to all these really glamorous locations, the standard of the horses is really high and I think it is a very modern way of doing a very traditional sport.” 

Several hundered international guests joined the first day of the London leg of the global circuit inculding Bruce and Patti Springsteen.

Alan Wade built a testing first track for the 14th round of competition in the 2019 GCL Championship, with many of the fences featuring typically British depictions, including a London Underground double, a Big Ben vertical and a colourful London-etched plank. The biggest troublemaker for the horse and rider combinations, however, was a light, long-striding treble, the second element – a broad oxer – tumbling time and time again. The final fence – a Longines vertical – also caused heartache for many, as they pushed to finish clear and within the time allowed.


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