The long awaited top class finals on the Andrews Bowen Surface
After 15 exceptional Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix across the world, consistently featuring the best riders and horses pushing sporting excellence to new levels, the final event of the season unfolded in the phenomenal Al Shaqab Arena in Doha, Qatar.
Crowds gathered to watch the climax of the most challenging show jumping circuit in the world unfold on one of the most spectacular stages for equestrian sport. An all-star cast of eight out of the world’s top 10 riders headed to Al Shaqab, for the climax of the 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour and Global Champions League.
Talking about the top calibre events, Andrews Bowen client Scott Brash said: “The level of competition on the GCT circuit is so high, so to win a Grand Prix or League class you and your horse have to be at the absolute top of your game.”
New LGCT Champion Harrie Smolders, who made history this year by taking the title at the penultimate event in Rome, said: “In the Global Champions Tour the level is very, very high because we have the best horses and the best riders in the world. A higher level is not possible.”
Speaking about AL SHAQAB as the venue for the finals Jan Tops added: “It is great to be here at this special place. Qatar works very hard to promote the heritage of the horse and on the development of the sport to a high level, which we have seen on an Olympic level.
“AL SHAQAB is not only a magnificent place, but it is very horse-friendly; the footing is great, the stabling is the best condition – it’s an example for every event. That is why we love to be here in Qatar.”
Harrie Smolders was officially crowned 2017 Champion and local hero Bassem Hassan Mohammed delivered an emotional home victory in the immense floodlit arena of AL SHAQAB in Qatar, spectacular state-of-the-art arena. “Today we made it,” said Bassem. “It’s been really hard work, I’d like to thank my whole team and my horse, I’m so happy, so proud. It feels very special to make this crowd happy.”
On the night Dutchman Harrie Smolders and his superstar ride Don VHP clocked up four faults in the LGCT Grand Prix. But his supreme performance all season, against the best of the best in show jumping, had already ensured he was 2017 Champions of Champions.
Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, together with children from the AL SHAQAB Riding Academy, presented both the coveted LGCT Championship trophy to Harrie Smolders and also the winning medal to Qatari rider Bassem Hassan Mohammed. His Excellency Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani was also in attendance along with diplomats from around the world. At one point Her Highness scooped up Bassem’s delighted daughter to the joy of the crowd.
Delighted Harrie, who also won the 2017 Global Champions League as part of team Hamburg Diamonds, said: “After such a long season, I’m very thankful to do the double here. It’s very special, it will not be easy to match this season again in my career. Every time at the right moment I delivered, and I must enjoy it right now.”
Lorenzo De Luca arrived in Doha in second position, just ahead of Christian Ahlmann (GER), Alberto Zorzi (ITA), Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and 2013-2014 title holder Scott Brash, the top six on the leader board separated by a mere 15 points.
In the large Andrews Bowen Surface arena, a true 1.60m test awaited the 24-strong starters. Uliano Vezzani (ITA) had built width on the oxers that was truly daunting, but offered little to worry this top tier field and it proved a generously inviting track.
A wide triple bar at fence three to a lofty vertical followed by a two-stride double of water trays at fence five, required power and accuracy early on the track. The return of the Longines treble midway round the track typically featured two verticals with a big wide oxer out — it required a big jumping effort and the poles here fell most frequently.
Great applause filled the arena as home rider Bassam Hassan Mohammed and the big striding Gunder powered round. A big push was required to the penultimate fence and he swept home at full pelt and straight into the lead in by a good two-second margin, to the excitement of home supporters.
Omar K. Al Mannai, Event Director AL SHAQAB: “This 100% helps [the sport and the region in terms of exposure] we already have an increase in the number of big events, five-star events, in the region and hopefully that will boost the performance to a higher level.”
Jan Tops, LGCT President and Fouder: “Every show is a real championship, you see that with the three rounds how much power, how much stamina, how much concentration is required on these difficult tracks. Week in, week out there’s different footing, different fences, different course-builders, different environments — it’s very difficult to win this so it’s an amazing achievement.”
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