Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Ireland’s Cian O’Conner stormed to a stunning win in this evening’s CSI5* 1.45m speed class in Qatar, in a two horse race which saw home hero Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) miss out by just tenths of a second. At the magnificent AL SHAQAB, this evening’s action was the perfect prelude to Saturday’s Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Doha, with the world’s best horses and riders in action ahead of the 2016 season final. Title rivals Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) faced each other for the first time this weekend, with the pair both looking on form ahead tomorrow’s Grand Prix.
Course designer Uliano Vezzani set a tough but fair course for the top riders in the world, with a 1.45m speed class offering up a prize purse of €25,000. Faults came from all over the course, with Marcus Ehning (GER) and Funky Fred rolling the first and last poles, and Emanuele Gaudiano (ITA) picking up 12 faults with Caspar.
Andreas Kreuzer (GER) was the first to set the pace with the 9 year old dark chestnut Calvilot with a clear in 73.43s and held the lead as poles fell from all over the course. Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani (QAT) entered the arena with clear focus and intent, and looked set for a home turf win after a blinding round with grey stallion Imperio Egipcio Milton rocketed him to the lead with a fast and furious time of 69.71s, a full two seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Others tried, and failed to surpass the top Qatari rider’s time, until Ireland’s Cian O’Conner (IRL) and Callisto put in a phenomenal time of 63.11s throwing down the gauntlet to the remainder of the field and revving the competition up a gear as the final competitors took their turn.
Young talent Emily Moffitt (USA) looked to be the only challenger to come close, riding an exceptional round. Making daring turns with Cassius Clay, she shaved valuable seconds from the clock, crossing the line in 65.11s – exactly two seconds off the Irishman’s time. World Number 1 Christian Ahlmann (GER) gave it his best shot with the eye-catching stallion Caribis Z, but finished over two seconds behind the young American, in 68.60s. Home hero Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) galloped around the course, with the local spectators whistling him on, however finished just shy of Cian’s time in 63.28s.
Michael Whitaker (GBR) rounded out the top six with Olympic mount Cassionato, while young talent Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) with H&M Forever d’Arco ter Linden finished in 7th overall. Denis Lynch (IRL), Alexandra Thornton (GBR) and Alberto Zorzi (ITA) all jumped clear, but it was Cian O’Conner (IRL) and his 9 year old dark bay gelding Callisto who stole the show in the final of Friday’s CSI5* classes.
Earlier this evening, it was a case of “Happiness” by name, happiness by nature as Daniel Deusser (GER) ensured the spotlight was on him with a stunning opening class on his talented 9 year old chestnut mare Happiness van T Paradijs. Shining bright under the brilliant floodlights, the World Number 5 took the lion’s share of the €25,000 prize money, setting up his weekend in Qatar perfectly.
Both LGCT Ranking leader Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) rode their Grand Prix horses in this two phase competition, with Casall ASK and Lintea Tequila jumping clear. The two Olympic riders looked pretty evenly matched, both picking up 1 time fault apiece and finishing just tenths of a second apart. Edwina and Lintea Tequila finished on 61.01s, with Rolf and Casall ASK finishing on 61.84s, giving an early preview into just how evenly matched the Championship contenders are.
Uliano Vezzani’s course was a clean test for the world class combinations as they took to the magnificent floodlit arena for the first of the Longines Global Champions Tour competitions, with AL SHAQAB illuminated in the depth of the Qatari night. The triple combination along the full length of the arena caused a few troubles, with the final element signifying the end of the first phase rolled by the lightest of touches. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) had a surprise refusal from the huge striding Fibonacci, and World Number 1 Christian Ahlmann (GER) collected 7 faults with stallion Taloubet Z.
World Number 2, Simon Delestre (FRA) fared better with Chadino, finishing in 10th overall, and Ludger Beerbaum (GER) with Chiara rounded out the 11 riders who jumped clear. But it was Daniel Deusser (GER) and Happiness van T Paradijs who took the victory, storming to the win in 24.47s. Great Britain’s Laura Renwick (GBR) and MHS Washington looked set to challenge for the lead, however galloped to the finish just shy of Daniel’s time, in 24.75s. Third place went to Olympic Silver medallist Peder Fredericson (SWE) with H&M Zaloubet, Jos Verlooy (BEL) and Farfelu de la Pomme took fourth, John Whitaker (GBR) and Argento were 5th and brother Michael Whitaker (GBR) rounded out the top six with JB’s Hot Stuff.