The 2022 Longines Global Champions Tour and GCL seasons were officially declared open today in Doha as local organisers hailed the 'prestigious' circuit an honour to host.
Al Shaqab is the launchpad for the new season which will see 51 riders from 19 different countries take on the best of the best in Qatar’s capital city from 3 - 5 March. It will be a weekend full of high-stake competitions under the stunning soaring architecture of the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab. Today the opening press conference took place setting the scene for an electrifying weekend of top-level sport.
LGCT and GCL President and Founder, Jan Tops spoke of the ever-increasing following that the tour has amassed; "Every year the level of competition raises on our circuit. We saw last year, Peder Fredricson, team Olympic champion and reserve Olympic champion winning the individual circuit. Riders have been preparing for this season for the past two months which means they want to win the championship a lot. It is already difficult to win one leg but to win the championship you have to have a unique horse or horses and a unique rider. Everybody is really focused to win the Longines Global Champions Tour and obviously, we cannot do it without the support of our partners during the year and especially Longines who has been with us for many years."
Speaking about the GCL team series Tops added: "People are now seeing that the format and the League is really working and behind the scenes, people are trying to find the right riders to sign up. It has become like the soccer games where you get these teams working together to win overall. This year we have three new teams and you can see that the new format is really working which is going to be very important for equestrian sport in the future."
Omar Al Mannai, Event Director, spoke of hosting the event in Doha for the 15th year saying: "This has become an annual event in Doha since it started in 2008. Here at Al Shaqab, it is the best facilities ever for this kind of sport and the perfect venue to kick off the Longines Global Champions Tour. The growth of the sport has been tremendous in Qatar and that is why the leading riders love competing here."
This season will see a new time fault rule come into play which will be extra crucial in the GCL team classes where all time and faults are added together. Marco Danese, Sports Director explained why it will be so important this season: "It will be interesting. We will see the consequence of the new rule in the team competition. The change is significant, it’s a huge change so now the time fault will become a very important part of the strategy and we know that especially the team competition sometimes the rider is going slowly to be sure of a clear for the team."
Al Shaqab is known for its phenomenal facilities for horses, riders, grooms, owners and spectators. Marco Danese went on to add: "Every year the team of Al Shaqab find a way to improve the facilities and the facilities here are exceptional, the best in the world. First of all for the horses which is the most important part for us as you know. And all the facilities, stables, arenas but also behind the scenes. Everything is prepared to be the best for the horses and for the riders everything goes in the perfect way. Owners are also happy to come to Doha and when they come here they know that they can be sure they will be at the top level."
Fans around the world will be able to watch all the action live on GCTV throughout the weekend. The first round of the GCL team competition will begin at 18:10 (local time) on Thursday, with all the teams looking for a good start to their campaign in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Friday will see two top-level competitions before the second round of the GCL competition takes place at 14:40 on Saturday. The LGCT Grand Prix of Doha kicks off at 18:00 on Saturday, with riders vying for the win as well as the first golden ticket to the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Prague Playoffs.
Tickets for the LGCT first leg are available online, please click here.