The formidable pairing of Scott Brash with Hello Shelby and Spencer Smith with Theodore Manciais put New York Empire at the top of scoreboards in today’s thrilling GCL Madrid round one. The team were the fastest of six teams on a zero score - a full twelve seconds faster than second placed team Madrid in Motion.
Speaking after securing pole, Scott Brash said: “We’ve improved as we’ve had a few tough rounds, so it’s good to get back on top. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, but it’s great to be in this position and we’ll try again tomorrow.”
Spencer Smith agreed “We both just did our thing - Scott’s a fast rider and I have a fast horse, so it worked out that way.”
The New York Empire duo will go into Saturday’s showdown in prime position as last to go, with the benefit of seeing the rest of the field compete before them.
Second today were home city team Madrid in Motion, with father and son Eric and Maikel van der Vleuten securing a strong result for the popular local squad and third went to last year’s GCL Madrid winners, the London Knights, as Ben Maher and Martin Fuchs teamed up for the first time this season.
The thrilling first round of GCL Madrid saw Spanish designer Santiago Varela Ullastres create a tough but flowing course to test the world’s best teams. With plenty for the horses to look at, poles fell all around the arena, in particular the big Longines liverpool, the tight Caixa Bank treble, and the imposing 1.55m Volvo oxer.
The New York Empire team tried out a new combination for the fifth leg of the Championship race, with Spencer Smith and Theodore Manciais first to go for the team. The pair flew around the arena, quickest of all, delivering a confident clear and putting the pressure on the shoulders of his teammate Scott Brash. But Scott’s nickname isn’t “The Iceman” for nothing, and the British Olympic gold medallist rode Hello Shelby magnificently to bring home the team’s second double clear of the season, propelling them into first place.
Last year’s GCL Madrid winners, the London Knights, brought out two serious chargers in Martin Fuchs with Chica B Z and Ben Maher with Explosion W. First to go Martin gave Chica a brilliant ride, the grey mare turning herself inside out to jump the fences for him. A steady clear meant that Ben would have to jump clear and fast to put the team in pole position for Saturday’s showdown, but the crucial element being a clear to keep the team in with a chance of a podium. Ben and Explosion looked fresh and ready, Ben keeping the chestnut gelding quiet over the fences and letting him find his natural rhythm. With team owner Emily Moffitt watching from the kiss n’ cry, Ben and Explosion delivered, putting the team just behind New York Empire on time and they stand in third going into the second leg.
William Whitaker and RMF Cadeau de Muze were the first to take to the arena for the Miami Celtics. The stallion looked fresh, but William managed him brilliantly, riding the triple combination to perfection despite the horse bringing him in too close to the middle. They finished clear and passed the baton to U25 teammate Michael Duffy who brought out the bouncy Quintano - a horse that has delivered plenty of clears on the Championship so far. With team manager Helena Stormanns watching from the kiss n’ cry, the duo delivered two clears and stand in sixth overnight.
The round earned Scott second place individually in this 46-strong 1.50/1.55m speed, 1.56 sec behind the winner, Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum on Cool Feeling. Fellow Brit Ben Maher slotted Explosion W into sixth. Steadier clears from British-based Irishman Michael Duffy on Quintano and William Whitaker with RMF Cadeau De Muze took 17th and 18th.
Michael eased new ride Happydam into fourth in the 5* 1.45m two-phase 1.16 sec behind the winner, The Netherlands Harrie Smolders on Zinius. British-based American Laura Kraut claimed second on Curious George in the 54-strong class.
Tess Carmichael guided Atlantis PP Z into seventh in the 2* 1.25m two-phase, the Air Jordan Z 14-year-old finishing 4.72 sec behind the winner.
Text © Jumping Around & Photo courtesy LGCT/Stefano Grasso