Mark this date. December 13 will go down in history as the day the Super Cup was born.
The first ever Global Champions (GC) Playoffs kicked off today in Prague, Czech Republic. One hundred horses and 59 athletes from 20 different nations will take to the O2 Arena for the first time to battle it out for the Longines Global Champions League (GCL) Super Cup, the feature event of 2018 GCL season.
If you’re not already familiar with the GCL Super Cup, it’s like the Super Bowl. But with horses.
[Related aside: have you ever noticed how many great sporting events are named after dinnerware? Stanley Cup, Super Bowl, Queen’s Plate… Is it a hunger analogy? A nod to the Nations Cup? Are we reading too much into this?]
“To be here in this amazing place, Prague, and at the right time of the year is amazing for our sport,” said Jan Tops, President and Founder of the Longines Global Champions Tour and GCL.
“The GC Playoffs will be something unique, and it will be the first time ever we have the [event] here. All the riders and owners are looking forward to being here—it’s something totally different. We wanted to be innovative, we should never lose the tradition but we should be innovative as in other sports.”
And by “innovative” Tops means like mainstream sports that have already proved the concept. Like smart marketers do.
Here’s how the Super Cup works:
The top sixteen out of 19 GCL teams qualify for the Super Cup. Of those, the top four fast-track to the semi final.
In round one (held today at 3:00pm EDT), the 12 lowest ranked teams will battle it out in the quarter finals to earn a place in Friday’s semi-finals. Each team is permitted to bring four riders to the Super Cup but can only play three riders per round. All scores count.
Competing in today’s quarter final are the following teams:
- New York Empire (David Will, Lillie Keenan, Scott Brash)
- Cannes Stars (Piergiorgio Bucci, Jane Richard Philips, Karel Cox)
- Paris Panthers (Yuri Mansur Guerios, Gregory Wathelet, Darragh Kenny)
- Monaco Aces (Simon Delestre, Jerome Guery, Julien Epaillard)
- Doha Fursan Qatar (Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani, Michael Whitaker, Bassem Hassan Mohammed)
- Berlin Eagles (Christian Kukuk, Philipp Weishaupt, Ludger Beerbaum)
- Madrid in Motion (Marc Houtzager, Maikel van der Vleuten, Eduardo Alvarez Aznar)
- Prague Lions (Niels Bruynseels, Anna Kellnerova, Peder Fredricson)
- St Tropez Pirates (Athina Onassis, Edwina Tops-Alexander, Pieter Devos)
- Scandinavian Vikings (Leopold van Asten, Evelina Tovek, Christian Ahlmann)
- Montreal Diamonds (Danielle Goldstein, Jos Verlooy, Harrie Smolders) Shanghai Swans (Daniel Deusser, Pius Schwizer, Shane Sweetnam)
Between the three rounds, team managers have the option of substituting one rider as a matter of strategy, so if you may not see the same three compete each day.
In Round 2, the semi finals, the top eight teams from the quarter-finals will be joined by the four top ranked teams of the 2018 season. (In other words, they’re not leaving stellar competition to a “lucky” day.) All teams start on a clean score of zero.
Pre-qualified for the semi final are the London Knights (Ben Maher, Olivier Philippaerts, Nicola Philippaerts, Martin Fuchs), Valkenswaard United (Marcus Ehning, Bertram Allen, Alberto Zorzi, Jur Vrieling), Miami Celtics (Jessica Springsteen, Shane Breen, Michael Duffy) and Rome Gladiators (Lorenzo de Luca, Laura Kraut, Marlon Modolo Zanotelli).
Six teams will qualify for the Super Cup final on Sunday—a two round, all faults count, no substitution showdown.
Only one will go down in history as the inaugural Super Cup champions!
Cue the explainer video:
*Disclaimer: the riders would probably say the best part is the €10.1 MILLION prize purse. Tomayto, tomahto.