Emirati rider Sheikh Ali Abdulla Al Qassimi admitted he nearly had to pinch himself to realise he had landed the showpiece Emirates Airline Dubai Grand Prix FEI World Cup Qualifier at the Dubai Show Jumping Championship on Saturday afternoon, which ensured his qualification for the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tyron, North Carolina. The Dubai Grand Prix was competed across two rounds, with the top 25% of riders from the first round progressing to the second, where they find themselves in a battle against both time and penalties.
Sheikh Ali clocked a winning 47.68 seconds on board Cacharel to take home the Dh80,000 top prize and moreover give the hosts victory by the narrowest of margins from Norwegian lady rider Anita Sande, who clocked 47.70s and was the only other rider to finish without a penalty when riding For Cash 2. Frenchman Frederic David, astride Equador Van’T Roosakker placed third with a timing of 51.39s, but having claimed four faults along the way. “It took me a few minutes to realise I had won this.
It is a big show for me and a World Cup qualification with a new mare, and we have just been preparing regularly for a few months, and following our normal routine and I am very thankful for this win,” said Sheikh Ali, who emerged victorious from a field of 32 riders, including 24 international horse and rider combinations from 16 countries. The final day of the competition opened with the Dh98,0000 Longines Accumulator, a category which was won by another local star, Abdullah Al Marri, on board Narcissist Fbh. Al Marri won with a maximum score of 65 and a time of 53.91s with Saudi Arabian riders Khaled Abdulaziz Al Eid and five time Olympian Ramzy Hamad Al Duhami filling the next two podium spots.
Al Eid, on board Aasthir, and Al Duhami, riding Ted, also secured the maximum score of 65, but posted times of 54.37s and 55.29s respectively. Al Marri was thrilled to have won at home and said: “We are really happy that it is on home soil, in front of our own fans and we hope we can keep impressing them in years to come. Meydan and the Dubai Equestrian Club have also been amazing supporters of the Dubai Show Jumping team, and it is really great to win at Emirates Equestrian Centre, where we have this fantastic three star show.” Al Marri had already qualified for the World Equestrian Games 2018 (WEG 2018) and team coach Alice Debany is ultimately taking aim at the Olympics.
“We are preparing Abdullah and his horse Sama Dubai for the World Equestrian Games. Our main focus is to make sure Sama Dubai develops properly, and the team ends up peaking at the right time, because the WEG is another vehicle to qualify for the Olympics which is very important to us,” she said. The Longines Accumulator is a special class, with each of a maximum ten jumps being assigned points. At the end, riders have the opportunity to choose either jump number ten or the joker. Number ten earning them ten points, while the joker would earn twenty. Another twist in the plot is if any of the fences are knocked down, the rider gets no points for the jump, except the joker, where the rider loses twenty points in the event of a knock down.
Rounding off events at the three day show, the Emirates Equestrian Centre’s manager, Hamad Al Shamsi, said: “The biggest highlight at the 2017 renewal of the Dubai Show Jumping Championship has been the newly laid surface in the arena which has had outstanding feedback from the riders. Some have said it is the best in the UAE and better than a number of international surfaces, even those in 5*events. “The riders have also asked for an addition of classes in future events. We are also happy with the addition of the new six bar class as a test to both horse and rider, and it was good to see the food truck village well received by our visitors.”