By Sahan Bidappa/Doha
Last year’s Grand Prix winner at Al Shaqab, Bassem Hassan Mohamed picked up from where he left off last season as the Qatar rider began the final round of the Global Champions Tour with a victory in yesterday’s opening class.
At the magnificent Al Shaqab arena, Bassem tied with Frenchman Julien Epaillard, both finishing in 24.85 seconds to share the top honours in the CSI 5* Two phases 1.45m event. It was a remarkable start to the final round of GCT, with a tied finish being a rare occurrence in showjumping.
There were a total of 51 riders who took up the challenge to clear the highly technical course created by Uilano Vezzani. After Epaillard had taken the lead with 12-year-old Stallion Safari d Auge, Bassem was the 47th rider to enter the competition with his trusted 12-year-old gelding Argelith Squid. The two combined perfectly to astonishingly equal Epaillard’s timing, as they took confident strides under the lights to the delight of home fans. Ireland’s Bertram Allen, who was second last to go, with Casper, finished third with a time of 25.16 seconds.
“It’s very nice to start the weekend with the win. I know Julien is fast and I saw him before I went in. I tried my best and ended up with the win,” Bassem said.
The Netherlands’ Marc Houtzager on board Sterrehof’s Baccarat had taken an early lead, only to be beaten by Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Madame X. Norway’s Geir Gulliksen, the 40th rider to enter the ring, knocked Maher’s time by setting a time of 25.45 seconds on VDL Groep Quatro.
Geir would soon be beaten by Epaillard and Safari d Auge, who edged in front by successfully completing the last line in 8 strides passing the finish line at 24.85 seconds. But Bassem had other ideas as he matched Epaillard’s time by producing a stunning round with Argelith Squid.
Bassem also had a good day in the team event as he led Doha Fursan Qatar to third-place finish along with teammate Michael Whitaker in the first round of the Global Champions League. Bassem was astride Gunder, while Michael Whitaker partnered Strides Hilanasterne as the two pairs tallied 160.11 secs.
London Knights threw down the gauntlet to their closest rivals, executing powerful double clears, to finish on top, ahead of tomorrow’s showdown.
The Knights’ formidable duo of Ben Maher and Nicola Philippaerts stayed cool and ended on a clean score sheet in the fastest combined time to put them into pole position for tomorrow’s major contest. They have been leading the season ranking consistently and are currently 23 points ahead of Valkenswaard United. Maher said: “It was a perfect start to the weekend. It was quite a big course today for that first round, but we had a good plan and we have great horses in the team.”
Rome Gladiators were the only other team to achieve double clears with no time penalties thanks to high calibre performances from Laura Kraut and Lorenzo de Luca putting them in second spot on the grid.
Valkenswaard United’s Marcus Ehning and Alberto Zorzi suffered four faults each pushing them down the order. Now the teams have less than 48 hours to make strategic decisions on which riders and horses they will field in the GCL Round 2 showdown tomorrow, which will decide which teams go to the GCL Super Cup at the new GC Playoffs with over €10 million in prize money.
Third leg of Hathab
Meanwhile, the third leg of the Hathab National Equestrian series will also be held simultaneously with GCT today and tomorrow. A brainchild of HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani, President of the Qatar Olympic Committee, Hathab was a runaway success in its inaugural season.
The series – worth QR1mn in overall prize money – provides an opportunity for young riders from Qatar to gain experience and test themselves against other best talents in the country over a gruelling 12 legs, which is spread over six months.
CSI5* 1.45m Two Phases: A + A, Both Phases Against the Clock (€25.000)
1. Bassem Mohammed (QAT) and Argelith Squid. Time: 24.85 secs
1. Julien Epaillard (FRA) and Safari d Auge Time: 24.85 secs
3. Bertram Allen (IRL) and GK Casper. Time 25.16 secs
CSI 5* GCL Round 1 – 1.50/1.55m (€60.000 to individual class winners)
1. London Knights: Nicola Philippaerts (H&M Chilli Willi) and Ben Maher (Explosion W). Total time: 152.96 secs
2. Roma Gladiatiors: Lorenzo de Luca (Irenice Horta) and Laura Kraut (Zeremonie). Total time 154.55 secs
3. Doha Fursan Qatar: Michael Whitaker (Strides Hilanasterne) and Bassem Mohammed (Gunder) Total time: 160.11 secs.
Global Champions Tour
4:30pm: CSI 5* Against-the-clock 1.45m (€50.000); 6:30pm: CSI 5* Against-the-clock with jump-off 1.50/1.55m (€145.000)
9am: Against the clock NO Jump Off 1.00/1.15m; 2pm: Against the clock with jump off 1.20/1.30m
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