In a night of high drama and shock exits, Miami Celtics took top spot in the all-or-nothing GCL Super Cup Quarter Final at the GC Prague Playoffs.
The thrilling knockout competition saw eight teams survive to take their place in the Semi-Final, where four teams hit the drop zone after facing the ultimate jeopardy of elimination.
But it was U25 rider Michael Duffy with Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars, William Whitaker with RMF Cadeau de Muze and Shane Breen with Ipswich van de Wolfsakker of the Miami Celtics who shot to the top of the scoreboards in the intense competition, shrugging off serious pressure to secure their place in the Semi Final.
Michael Duffy said:
It is briliant and we got the job done. But now we focus on tomorrow.”
Local spectators roared in approval as the home city team Prague Lions survived to reach the Semi Final, a rollercoaster ride of three rounds leaving fans on the edge of their seats as they just edged into Friday’s competition.
With the championship’s four top ranked teams being fast-tracked to the Semi Final, the day’s Quarter Final was an all-or-nothing mission for eight of the 12 teams to claim their ticket to the next round.
As well as the Celtics, the qualifiers from the Quarter Final were the Cannes Stars, Chantilly Pegasus, Paris Panthers, Scandinavian Vikings, Monaco Aces, Valkenswaard United and home city team Prague Lions. But there was disappointment for Hamburg Giants, New York Empire, Berlin Eagles and Doha Falcons, who would fall into the drop zone and exit.
Uliano Vezzani’s course was an intense first test for the GCL Super Cup, taking no prisoners for Quarter Final. The formidable Prague Flag plank made its return to this year’s competition, the fence last year causing plenty of drama in the GCL Super Cup. A tough green and white triple combination would test the best, as well as a wide Longines oxer and a light to touch Rolls Royce vertical. The fences came up thick and fast, with concentration required to the final moment as riders and horses faced a delicate Charles Bridge to finish with a big gap underneath.
As team after team took their chances in the arena, riders, team owners, team managers, trainers and grooms waited anxiously backstage watching the action unfold on the screens in the warm-up arena. Every stride and turn was being scrutinised in the pursuit of success in the intense competition.
To the powerful music from the best-selling rock anthem Legendary, riders waved to delighted fans as GCL team logos were beamed around the arena and screens were lit up with dazzling colours. There was a huge cheer for the home city team Prague Lions followed by the Czech Republic National Anthem, sung live with an orchestral band.
Fans at home also enjoyed an enhanced viewing experience thanks to spectacular virtual graphics, new introductory films and with horse and rider statistics, transforming the way the competition was watched.