Riding Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot in the second round on Sunday, the Spaniard calmly steered his horse around the course, finishing with just one time fault.
It was enough to bring home the first GCL Super Cup for Madrid in Motion, who finished with a total of 11 penalties, six clear of Valkenswaard United and 15 ahead of Paris Panthers.
“That moment I was not thinking about the money,” Alvarez Aznar said. “I was thinking of the job my team mates did, they make me a little bit of pressure, but OK, I had to go a clear round, and I did it.”
Alvarez Aznar’s Dutch team mates, Holland’s Marc Houtzager and Maikel van der Vleuten, celebrated wildly in a packed O2 arena after clinching what had been billed as the ultimate showdown.
“When the last rider, Eduardo, had to go, it was pressure,” said Madrid in Motion team manager Eric van der Vleuten. “It was unbelievable top sport.”
After three rounds over three days, the finals of the 16-team GCL Super Cup were contested between six teams: Madrid In Motion, Scandinavian Vikings, Paris Panthers, Valkenswaard United, Montreal Diamonds and London Knights — the winner of the 2018 Global Champions League.
Unlike the previous two rounds, no horse or rider substitutions were allowed on Sunday. Instead, three riders jumped two rounds, with all faults counting towards their total.
That format produced high drama right from the start, when the first two teams, Montreal Diamonds and London Knights, were eliminated back-to-back.
The Diamonds crashed out after Belgium’s Jos Verlooy fell on the last fence, while the London Knights were knocked out of contention when Ben Maher’s Explosion W twice refused to jump a steep wall.
Maher, the team manager of the Knights, had put himself in the team for the finals, replacing Belgian Nicola Philippaerts.
Bad weekend for Big Ben
There had also been disappointment for Maher and Explosion W, the 2018 overall LGCT individual champions, during Saturday’s Super Grand Prix, with the pair finishing in fifth place behind eventual winners Edwina Tops-Alexander of Australia and California.
Maher later said his horse, who is relatively young at nine years of age, had been a bit spooked by some parts of the vast, sandy arena on Saturday night.
Valkenswaard United in pole position
After a shock start to the GCL Super Cup, order was swiftly restored by Valkenswaard United, the overall GCL winners of 2017, who were in pole position going into round two with a double clear for Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Ireland’s Bertram Allen — as well as eight penalties for Alberto Zorzi.
Madrid in Motion, also on eight penalties, were in second place at more than six seconds back, with Paris Panthers third with 16 penalties, followed by Scandinavian Vikings in fourth and last place with 24 penalties.
Stay calm, and carry on
Starting in reverse order in the second round, Valkenswaard United’s three riders added nine more faults to finish at 17 penalties.
With two fences in hand, and the last team to go, the pressure was now on for Madrid in Motion.
The arena went quiet as Houtzager and his horse Sterrehof’s Calimero calmly jumped clear, taking the total to nine penalties after one time fault. Maikel van der Vleuten and Verdi TN had the same strategy, adding one time penalty with a controlled clear round.
With the team now at 10 penalties, it was down to the final rider, Alvarez Aznar, to bring home the trophy.
“Very happy,” Alvarez Aznar said. “The first time, this competition. It was beautiful to ride and a fantastic atmosphere here.”
Houtzager paid tribute to his horse and his team mates.
“Calimero jumped super in the second round, from the first fence already, a top feeling,” said Houtzager. “And then Maikel behind me, and a cool last rider, Eduardo…it’s an unbelievable feeling.”