Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
The final CSI5* competition ahead of the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Doha kicked off in spectacular style, with Olympic Gold Medallist John Whitaker (GBR) setting the mood for what promises to be an incredible final. With top stallion Argento, the two legends of the sport put in a masterful display of horsemanship and skill, beating an international field of world class riders in a 22 rider jump-off.
As the shadows began to lengthen, the world’s best took to the expansive sand arena to try their luck at the €270,000 prize purse on offer. The first round course utilised the full space, with riders encouraged to a faster pace to meet the time allowed. The first fence, a delicate vertical, caused a few problems for top riders, including Olympic Silver Medallist Peder Fredricson (SWE)
A total of 22 riders went through to the jump off with in the enviable position of going last. Those rivalling for the win included Marcus Ehning (GER), Daniel Deusser (GER), Ludger Beerbaum (GER), Simon Delestre (FRA), Daniel Bluman (COL), Lauren Hough (USA) and John Whitaker (GBR).
Leopold van Asten (NED) and VDL Groep Miss Untouchable were the first combination to go, and looked strong to be in with a chance of the win. However the mare agonisingly clipped the back rail of the final fence, dropping them out of the running. Following suit, poles came from all over the course, particularly the large orange and black oxer, as those early to jump felt the pressure and tried to pick up the pace. Colombia’s Daniel Bluman (COL) was the first to go clear with Apardi, the pair setting the time at 38.57s. Janne-Friederike-Meyer (GER), Ludger Beerbaum (GER), Marcus Ehning (GER), Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) and all jumped clear, but couldn’t surpass Daniel’s time.
Kevin Staut (FRA) and Elky van het Indihof HDC galloped around the arena and stopped the clock in an impressive 35.81s, however one pole down eliminated them from the podium positions. Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani (QAT) rode a stunning round with grey stallion Imperio Egipcio Milton, putting in an excellent time of 39.38s much to the delight of the local crowd. It was a good day for the home heroes as Ali Yousef Al Rumaihi (QAT) also jumped double clear in the high octane jump off.
Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) delivered a masterful round, making brave turns and showing full trust in VDL Groep Quatro to tackle the 1.50/1.55m fences. They raised the bar to 37.61s, with just five riders left to go. But enter John Whitaker (GBR) and Argento, with the pair matching Maikel’s turns and pace. John bravely galloped Argento down the final distance, before checking the stallion to ensure they crossed the finish line double clear, and stopping the clock in 37.46s. Daniel Deusser (GER) and Happiness van T Paradijs looked set to upset the order, however couldn’t match the British Olympic rider, ending the class in third overall.