Scott Brash (GBR) pulled off a mind-blowing feat of speed in today’s headline 1.55m competition at the magnificent Longines Arena at AL SHAQAB.
It was a blistering jump-off featuring eight of the world’s best horse and rider combinations and it all came down to precision and speed under the floodlights in breezy conditions in the Qatari capital. 35 combinations came forward to tackle the course ahead of the first LGCT Grand Prix of the season tomorrow where it will be all to play for as the best of the best battle it out for the first golden ticket to the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Prague Playoffs.
Super Saturday in Doha will also play host to Round 2 of the GCL team competition, in the first event for the teams to secure the all important ranking places. Valkenswaard United head to the second round in pole position, but with 5 teams on a clean sheet, the showdown will be intense.
It was a smooth start for the first into the arena Niels Bruynseels (BEL) who tackled the tricky 1.50/1.55m CSI5* class with power and precision. Riding the bay mare Frenchy VDS they produced a clear just inside the time to take the first place in the jump-off.
On form, Evelina Tovek (SWE) used all her skill to pilot her mare around Uliano Vezzani’s testing track, but the pair knocked two fences to finish with 8 faults.
The clears weren’t forthcoming in the first round in this real test of accuracy, with top riders like Olivier Philippaerts (BEL), Gregory Wathelet (BEL), Shane Breen (IRE) and Christian Ahlmann (GER) all falling foul of the tough fences around the course.
Olivier Robert (FRA) had to work hard with Elea Blue, the horse looking fresh through the final line but they were able to clear the fences, finishing cleanly and creating a jump-off.
There was disappointment for both Eduardo Alvarez Aznar on Legend and Bart Bles with Gin D as they each picked up a single time fault leaving them out of the jump-off this time.
Constant Van Passchen elected to retire after the poles started to fall in the triple combination while Pieter Devos (BEL) kept a cool head with a strong looking Jade v Bisschop, paving his way into the jump-off. He would be joined by Jur Vrieling (NED) with Chabada de l’Esques, Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) riding King Edward, Simon Delestre (FRA) and Hermes Ryan, Christian Kukuk (GER) on Checker, Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Vincent.
So it would be an eight rider jump-off, with everyone looking to take the lion’s share of the 148.500 euros prize money.
First into the ring was Belgium favourite Niels Bruynseels (BEL), the sparky mare was quick off the ground and tight in her turns. With her tail swishing, Frenchy VDS flew to the finish and the pair stopped the clock in 36.08s.
Olivier Robert (FRA) looked focused and determined aboard Elea Blue the horse bouncing and enthusiastic to the fences. They were in touch with the leading time until their hind legs caused the Exxon Mobil upright to fall pushing them down the leader board.
Pieter Devos (BEL) set off with intent but Jade V Bisschop’s huge stride couldn’t match the pace or silky smoothness of Niels’ round. They finished clear and just off the podium in 4th place with a time of 37.80 in the extremely competitive jump-off.
At only 9 years old Chabada de l’Esques jumped a foot-perfect double clear with Jur Vrieling (NED) showing the combination will be one to watch for the future as the talented gelding soared over the final oxer to cross the finish line in 39.45s and take 6th place.
The fairly new combination of Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) and King Edward delivered another strong clear - just a fraction behind the time in 37.82s and finished in the top 5 of this impressive 1.55m jump-off class.
Flying Frenchman Simon Delestre (FRA) looked faster from the off on the super speedy Hermes Ryan but the final fence came crashing down putting them out of contention for the win today.
The huge striding grey gelding Cheker ridden by Christian Kukuk (GER) threw caution to the wind, galloping to the fences looking for their first win of the season, but they couldn’t quite match the pace and had to settle for 3rd overall.
But it was the final rider Scott Brash (GBR) onboard his rapid 12 year-old stallion Hello Vincent who saved the best to last and shaved just under a second off the time to claim victory in the feature class of the day.
Speaking after his win Scott explained: "I knew it was fast but Vincent is so rideable it makes my life a lot easier. I just tried to be as quick and as tight as I could everywhere. I felt I got a bit stuck over the oxer but he is a very quick horse."