With the first Golden Ticket to the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix at the GC Prague Playoffs in 2023 awarded, Philipp Weishaupt and Just Be Gentle secured an impressive victory in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Doha after stealing the show with Riesenbeck International in yesterday’s GCL.
Presented by HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, President, Qatar Olympic Committee, today’s trophies were received with a roaring applause and standing ovation from all in attendance elevating the incredible atmosphere felt throughout the weekend.
The third and final day of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Doha saw spectacular competition, enthralling entertainment for the entire family and top-tier hospitality. Coupled with the architectural spectacle of Al Shaqab’s Longines Arena, spectators in attendance got behind the spectacular opening leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour for 2023.
In a fairytale ending to a week rocked with emotion, it had been a spell of 11 years since his last LGCT Grand Prix win, all came together for Weishaupt on a mare that had never jumped even jumped a 2* Grand Prix in her life. “This is a very very special moment. Winning a Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix is special but even more so with this young mare. We always put our best horses in the league and we won that which was already incredible so to put this one in the Grand Prix I was never expecting to jump clear let alone win. These unexpected wins are the nicest ones so I am over the moon right now."
He went on to add: " It is a very special moment, the nicest story in this whole situation is when we have one down like what happened with Ludger's accident it could not have happened in a better place. We felt like the whole country of Qatar was helping us, the hospital was amazing and he almost felt like he was at home."
Omar Al Mannai, Event Director spoke of the competitive nature of the Longines Global Champions Tour, particularly at the season opener in Doha: “Always the Longines Global Champions Tour expectation is really high you never know who can win. We are very glad to host this event for the past 16 years. It has been a tough Grand Prix but the three winners did a great job and it has once again been an exciting competition.”
A delighted Christian Kukuk explained in the post-event press conference: "It is quite an emotional second place today. I am definitely more smiling than crying today about coming second. I was last to go and I had to give everything. I am so happy for our team."
While third place Simon Delestre praised the next-level show: "This is always one of my favourite shows of the season. Thank you to everyone for making this possible as all the facilities here, especially for the horses are fantastic."
39 riders started in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Doha, and in a true display of the level of both horses and riders on the Longines Global Champions Tour, over 12 combinations took to the arena in Round 2.
In what looked like a rocky start to the Round 1, clear rounds started to flow. A dramatic, fast and exhilarating jump-off resulted in 7 double clear rounds over the challenging but jumpable Uliano Vezzani built track.
Entering the jump off First was Qatar’s Rashid Towaim Ali Al Marri. With the home-crowd on their feet, the pressure was felt and an unfortunate two rails fell, leaving room for the proceeding 11 riders to take to the arena. Hans-Dieter Dreher aboard Elysium produce the first of the double clears, setting the bar for those to follow, while Maikel Van der Vlueten had the crowd holding their breaths, but an unfortunate rail at the last fence.
Enter: Philipp Weishaupt and Just Be Gentle. Tight corners and quick lines saw the duo fly into the lead, 1.5 seconds ahead of leader Dreher. Next saw leading lady rider Malin Bayard-Johnsson and H&M Indiana, 2022’s highest performing horse on the GCL tour, leave it all on the line, just 0.28 seconds behind Weishaupt.
Crowd favourite Mike Kawai had the weight of the stadium on his shoulders, but a slight miscommunication into the imposing Longines branded combination, and the final vertical, saw two rails fall. As second of the two lady riders in Round 2, Iolli Mytilineou and Levis de Muze marked the middle of the riders returning to the arena for the final time. A neat and tight round followed, resulting in a placeholding 3rd place.
Smolders, Devos, Delestre and Kukuk – the final four. A potential podium in itself, it was all to play for. A fast 4 for Smolders. An uncharacteristic rail from Devos and Moms Toupie De La Roque. Delestre’s speedy clear putting him just 0.09 behind Weishaupt.
An on-fire Kukuk and Nice Van’t Zorgvliet then entered the arena as the crowd fell silent. 0.05 seconds behind. Weishaput wins.
As the curtain falls on the 2023 season opener, the Longines Global Champions Tour of Doha, which was a rousing success with the contribution of the entire team partnered with an army of volunteers, all eyes look ahead to leg two, the LGCT of Miami Beach, where riders and spectators alike are treated to one of the most iconic stops on tour.