The Global Champions Tour and GCL team series will return to Al Shaqab today, marking the much-anticipated kickoff for the 2024 season. The three days of exhilarating action will see top-tier horses and riders compete for supremacy.
For the sixth year running, the season opener will be held in Doha, where a stellar rider line-up has assembled. Around 35 riders from 19 countries will be competing in the CSI5* class with the winner of the Grand Prix winner qualifying for the Super Grand Prix at the final showdown of the year – the GC Playoffs
Leading the pack in World No 1 Henrik von Eckermann (Sweden), who will face stiff competition from big names such as Marcus Ehning (Germany), John Whitaker (Britain), CHI Al Shaqab Grand Prix winner Malin Baryard-Johnsson (Sweden), Edwina Tops-Alexander (Austria), Christian Ahlmann (Germany), as well as Simon Delestre (France).
Last year’s GCT Championship runner-up Maikel van der Vleuten will also be determined to kick-start his campaign with a strong start. One of the most anticipated moments of the tour is the return of Marco Kutscher, adding an extra layer of excitement as fans eagerly await his performance after his hiatus from the tour.
The Under-25 talent will also be out in full force this week as the likes of Jodie Hall McAteer (Britain), Jeanne Sadran (France) and Harry Allen (Ireland) are among the riders entered for the first GCT event of the season.
Edwina Tops-Alexander, a two-time Global Champions Tour Champion and previous GCT Grand Prix of Doha winner, said competition on the tour is getting stronger. “Competing in Doha is always a highlight of the season. The level of competition and the electrifying atmosphere make it a truly unforgettable experience. The competition on the tour is getting stronger and stronger, the riders are really fighting to be strong from the first show and put pressure on the rest of the riders and teams,” the Australian said.
“Winning the tour is like the world championships of our sport and what is so special about it is how each venue is unique, different circumstances – the small arenas, big arenas, grass or sand and that is what makes the rider a champion. To be consistent throughout the year competing against the best riders is what makes it very exciting and challenging,” she added.
Doha Falcons back into
the GCL team series
Meanwhile, Doha Falcons will return to the GCL team series after a two-year hiatus. With an electrifying lineup and the support of sponsors like Al Shaqab, Qatar Equestrian Federation and Team Qatar, the Falcons are ready to spread their wings and dominate the competition. The Doha Falcons have left no stone unturned in assembling a dream team, blending experience and fresh talent for an unbeatable combination. Leading the charge is none other than Simon Delestre, the powerhouse rider who has swapped teams from the St Tropez Pirates.
Wilm Vermeir, a seasoned rider returning to the GCL teams after a brief hiatus, is a rock-solid addition to the squad and will be a force to be reckoned with, adding depth to the Falcons’ already formidable lineup. Joining the Falcons from the St Tropez Pirates is the young and dynamic under-25 rider, Michael Pender. With a reputation as one of the best rising talents around, Pender’s move to the Falcons promises thrilling performances and a fresh perspective. Rashid al-Marri, a familiar face from the Falcons’ past, renews his allegiance to the squad, adding a touch of continuity and experience to the team’s resurgence.
Jerome Guery, acquired in a trade from the Rome Gladiators, brings his unique skills and style to the Falcons’ roster. Guery’s addition is a strategic move that solidifies the Falcons’ position as serious contenders in the GCL. Last but certainly not least, Julien Anquetin, makes a triumphant return after a hiatus since 2020, is set to be a top face and a fan favourite for the Falcons.
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