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Sensational win for United Arab Emirates in the Challenge Cup

Saturday, 30 September 2017
CSOI5* Barcelona 2017

Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping. The winning team of the Challenge Cup. Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Friday night’s highlight at the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona was the Challenge Cup, open for those teams not among the eight best ready for Saturday. Against teams such as reigning European Champions Ireland, as well as Italy that has been one of the strongest in Europe Division One this year and 2012 Olympic Champions Great Britain, it was United Arab Emirates that took a sensational win.

The 1.60m course designed by Santiago Varela counted 13 obstacles and 16 efforts, with the time allowed set to 78 seconds. Even though the double at fence 12, the delicate plank on fence nine after the open water, as well as the double at fence five caused headache, it was the time that once again turned out to be the deciding factor.

Leading the way for the United Arab Emirates, it was Abdullah Mohd Al Marri on the 10-year-old mare Sama Dubai FBH (Stakkato x Landcapitol) that was the first to leave all the fences intact, only picking up two time penalties. He was not alone: Five pairs out of the first eight struggled to stay within the time allowed. Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi on the 12-year-old mare Cha Cha Cha 7 (Chacco Blue x Quick Star) rode the first clear round of the night, setting the stage for a sensation. While all the other teams gathered penalties, United Arab Emirates’ third rider Mohammed Ghanem Al Hajri on the 14-year-old gelding Pour Le Poussage (Polytraum x Lacaldo) entered the ring knowing that he could afford one time penalty and still help his team take their first ever five-star Nations Cup win – in their first ever Longines FEI Nations Cup Final. And as the fully packed Real Polo Club watched, that is just what Al Hajri did, securing a spectacular end to Team UAE’s summer in Europe.

“It was really amazing,” said UAE’s Chef d’Equipe Karl Schneider after the class. “Yesterday our boys maybe got a bit shocked, when they saw our first rider go and thought ’If he cannot go clear, how can we?’. So, we changed the order to go for today; he would go last,” Scheider explained about the team tactics. ”And, today Majid was not sure if he wanted to jump at all, so I told him – ’let’s see – maybe the other riders are all clear and you don’t need to jump’. That was a joke, and then finally when we were in the warm-up tonight and I told him he doesn’t need to jump, he thought I was joking again!” Schneider laughed. “We did not expect this result here today – we have done two and three-star shows, so we were very happy just to get the chance to compete here.”

Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping. A happy Team UAE after the win. Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

As the third rider in their line-up, Shane Breen on the 10-year-old stallion Laith (Lord Z x Weinberg) rode a brilliant clear round – helping the Irish team to finish on a score of nine penalties and take the second place. Pedro Veniss on the 13-year-old stallion Quabri de L’Isle (Kannan x Socrate de Dhivre) only picked up one time penalty, just like so many others, adding Team Brazils total penalties to eleven which put them in the third spot.

Manuel Fernandez Saro on the 11-year-old stallion Santiago de Blondel (Calvaro x Vondeen) was the best from the host, only picking up four penalties helping Spain end up fourth. William Whitaker on the 13-year-old stallion Utamaro D’Ecaussines (Diamant de Semilly x Quidam de Revel) was one of the many victims of the tight time allowed, picking up one time penalty, with Great Britain ending up on a team total of 17 as the fifth best in the Challenge Cup. 

”I think that the class was a good class today,” the Spanish course designer Santiago Varela told the press after the prize giving. ”I think there was one team that was better than the others today. This is the sport – things change from one day to the other.”

UAE’s pathfinder Al Marri praised his team and his trainer Alice Debany Clero: ”It was an amazing team effort today. I actually prefer to go first! I have a very good trainer.” His team mate Al Muhairi said he just did not want to let the boys down today: ”Yesterday I was a little bit sick and when I was riding, I felt my body tired,” he said. ”So today I took a big break and did not move for a long time, so I was fresh and very concentrated on the class. It is my last show here in Europe and I really don’t like the other boys talking bad of me!” he joked.

 

 


Text and pictures © World of showjumping by Nanna Nieminen

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