Photos: Stefano Grasso / LGCT
Ranking leader and World Number 1 Scott Brash (GBR) stole the show with Hello Forever today in Qatar in a sensational prelude to tomorrow’s Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Doha. The stunning night lights of AL SHAQAB illuminated a dramatic duel between Scott and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) in a taste of what lies ahed in a spellbinding climax to the season tomorrow. In the end Rolf came agonisingly close to victory with a stunning round on his grey stallion Clarimo ASK, finishing just seven tenths of a second behind Scott.
On the penultimate day of the Longines Global Champions Tour 2015 season, the temperature rose as riders fought to win a share of the €153,000 prize fund in the CSI5* 1.50/1.55m jump-off class.
Earlier, The Father Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and Her Highness Sheikha Moza bin Nasser All Missned watched Qatari national riders competing at AL SHAQAB and saw Longines Global Champions Tour President Jan Tops and his wife Edwina Tops-Alexander present rosettes to young riders in the special academy at the equestrian complex.
Then all eyes were on the big competition of the night as 46 contenders took to the vast 120m x 80m sand arena for a feast of high calibre show jumping featuring the world’s leading riders.
Italy’s Uliano Vezzani designed a flowing course, centred around two long lines of fences across the middle of the huge sand arena and posed a fair test ahead of tomorrow’s main Grand Prix. Germany’s Marco Kutscher got the class off to an excellent start, jumping clear with the 11 year old chestnut stallion Balermo, with third to go, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, guaranteeing a jump-off early on after a brilliant clear on the athletic Fibonacci 17.
With 10 of the first 24 combinations clear, it looked like there would be a large jump off, however with the next 12 riders failing to post a clear round, it was clear that the course was not as straight forward as initially perceived. Causing particular trouble was a line of two contrasting doubles across the diagonal on a committed related distance, which caught out many of these top-class combinations. The vertical to an oxer, six strides to another big oxer into the second double and a short distance to a tall vertical coming out threw in a few challenges, with Title contender Luciana Diniz (POR) and Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum two of the biggest names to get caught out in dramatic style.
Of the second half of the competitors to jump, only Scott Brash (GBR) riding Hello Forever and Ramzy Hamad Al Duhami (KSA) managed to complete faultless rounds. A total of 12 riders went through to the jump off, with all eyes on Scott and championship rival Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) to get an insight into the riders’ form ahead of the exhilarating Grand Prix.
The jump off round was a stern test for those who had made it through. Marco Kutscher (GER) and Balermo were first to go clear in a well balanced 46.85 seconds, setting the bar for the riders yet to come. Lauren Hough (USA) set off at a strong pace with Royalty Des Isles however was eliminated after an unlucky fall at the double.
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and Clarimo ASK set off at a gallop and soon took the lead with a strong 45.42s over the line, taking out strides all along the course without throwing caution to the wind and raising the bar higher still to the riders yet to follow.
Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Egano van het Slogenhof just caught the vertical going into the double, but was the quickest of the four faulters in 43.38. He was quickly followed by Columbia’s Carlos Lopez, who was lightning fast with Prince de la Mare however they also took out the vertical, just pipping Gregory to the fast time with 43.24s.
Scott Brash was the penultimate rider to enter the arena and set off at a blinding pace, picking Hello Forever up through the fences all around the course. Scott carried the young 9 year old horse brilliantly into the double that had caused so much trouble earlier, with a deep stride to carry him over and push on through to the final fences, finishing with a time of 44.78s.
Talking about Hello Forever, Scott said: “I’m really chuffed with him. His jump is very good so hopefully next year he’ll be an ever better horse – I’m delighted with him. He loves a jump off, he’s a winner.”
Looking ahead to the Grand Prix, Scott commented: “Sanctos feels good, he had a day off today and we’ll be trying our best tomorrow. You have to go in, do your job, focus on your horse, focus on beating the course and that’s all I can try and do.”
Source: Global Champions Tour