Day 2 of showjumping got underway in Doha, Qatar, with the small tour CSI3*, which was won by Rashid Towaim Al Marri riding Kannada. (This was the only chance to hear anything that sounds remotely like ‘Canada’ spoken over the PA here, as there are unfortunately no Canadians at this rich event.) This win marked the first-ever victory for this pair. Incredibly, 21-year-old Al Marri has only been riding for three and a half years, but is already very well-travelled, having competed in the UAE, Germany, Poland, and Belgium. He beautifully describes the connection needed to be successful in show jumping: “You have to be one with your horse; two souls in one body.”
The big tour CSI3* marked another win for Bassem Hassan Mohammed and Anyway II, who beat the field of 17 by a large margin in the power and speed class, which has been a popular format at this show. Mohammed, 27, is more experienced than many of the riders he is competing against, as he rode in the 2013 World Cup Final and the Saut Hermès Jumping International in Paris. “That’s my show!” he said proudly of the latter; last year he won the first class and was top-10 in two others. Conflicting dates with the CHI Al Shaqab show caused him to miss it this year.
Qatari riders try to get out to the Global Champions Tour as much as possible to gain valuable experience. “It really helped me, and I think all the team,” said Mohammed. “We have started to see and feel the difference – more confidence – when we ride with the best.” Mohammed began riding at the age of five, and like many riders in Qatar is a graduate of the Al Shaqab riding school, which currently has 500 students, with 500 more on a waiting list.
The small tour CSI5* was won by Henrik von Eckermann of Sweden riding Toulouse 66, an Oldenburg mare he has been campaigning for a couple of years. The enormous arena allows for lots of galloping, and the fencing material is wood-based and quite heavy and forgiving, so riders can take some risks, as did this speedy pair.
The final class of the night, the big tour CSI5* 1.50m worth 91,000 euros, saw nearly half the field – 13 of the 27 entries – go clear. Michael Whitaker set the pace in the jump-off with Elie van de Kolmen in 39.43 seconds, a time that was bettered by several riders, including Pieter Devos (BEL) and Candy, who stopped the timers in 39.29 seconds. But it was Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Nasa who set a relentless pace and took a big risk galloping down to the last fence to finish in 37.76 seconds.
Guerdat was another rider who chose to come to this event based on the strengths of his horse. The mare had jumped well here last year as well. “The show fits her,” he said. “She has a lot of blood, so the heat calms her down a little bit, and she’s always better to ride in big arenas – that’s why she’s here instead of Paris [a smaller indoor venue].”
When asked if half the field was a large percentage in the jump-off, Guerdat replied, “You have to look at the field, the kind of class that it is, and the money. The riders are really on the ball – there are a lot of good riders here with their best horse.”
Note: For complete results, or to watch live online – go to chialshaqab.com