John Whitaker: Selling sand to the Arabs at a remarkable show *H&H VIP*

  • The Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre in Doha, where the Global Champions Tour final was held last weekend (13-15 November) is a remarkable venue. It has a massive state-of-the-art floodlit stadium and big indoor arena for training, both of which had great footing — the surface was shipped all the way from Preston courtesy of Andrews Bowen. Talk about selling sand to the Arabs!

    And there were also air-conditioned stables, rubber walkways everywhere and a hotel next door for the grooms. With all of this and big prize-money on offer for this Global Champions Tour (GCT) fixture, it was not surprising to see 17 of the world’s top 20 riders taking part. It meant that standards were extremely high.

    On the first day both my horses, Ornellaia and Lord Of Arabia, were a little spooky in the large arena. However, by the third and final day they felt at home in there and were jumping well. I was pleased with how Ornellaia jumped in the grand prix on Saturday (14 November), but sadly one pole down and an unfortunate time-fault kept us out of the second round.

    The track for the final was big but not too technical, though the time rode very tight. The Qatari riders are now a force to be reckoned with — three of them made the top 18 to come back for the second round. The winner, Luciana Diniz, jumped three impeccable rounds on her brilliant little chestnut mare Fit For Fun.

    The show was difficult to fault, but it did lack some atmosphere as there were few spectators filling the huge arena. I am sure this will improve as showjumping is a growing sport in Qatar and plenty of youngsters are getting into it.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 19 November 2015