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Bassem wows with home win as Smolders is crowned 2017 LGCT Champion

Saturday, 11 November 2017
CSI5* LGCT Doha 2017

Photo (c) LGCT / Stefano Grasso. Harrie Smolders celebrating his Longines Global Champions Tour-title. Photo (c) LGCT / Stefano Grasso.

It was a night of sporting jubilation and celebration as Harrie Smolders was officially crowned 2017 Champion and local hero Bassem Hassan Mohammed delivered an emotional home victory in the immense floodlit arena of Al Shaqab in Qatar.

After 15 Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix across the world, the final event of the season unfolded with a magical ending. Crowds gathered in Doha to watch the climax of the LGCT circuit unfold on one of the most spectacular stages for equestrian sport.

Spectators of all ages held their breath as Bassem Hassan Mohammed, riding Gunder (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Randel Z), demonstrated nerves of steel in the nine-strong jump-off and swept home clear to win the final LGCT Grand Prix of the season - a full two seconds ahead of Janika Sprunger (SUI) on Bacardi VDL (Corland x Kannan) and Peder Fredricson (SWE) on H&M Christian K (Namelus R x Calvados / Sable Rose).

“Today we made it,” said Bassem. “It’s been really hard work, I’d like to thank my whole team and my horse, I’m so happy, so proud. It feels very special to make this crowd happy.”

On the night Dutchman Harrie Smolders and his superstar ride Don VHP (Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire) clocked up four faults in the LGCT Grand Prix. But his supreme performance all season, against the best of the best in show jumping, had already ensured he was 2017 Champions of Champions.

Delighted Harrie, who also won the 2017 Global Champions League as part of team Hamburg Diamonds, said: “After such a long season, I’m very thankful to do the double here. It’s very special, it will not be easy to match this season again in my career. Every time at the right moment I delivered and I must enjoy it right now.”

Before the LGCT Grand Prix began there was intense speculation about which of the top riders would win the remaining podium place in the LGCT overall Championship.

Lorenzo De Luca (ITA) arrived in Doha in second position, just ahead of Christian Ahlmann (GER), Alberto Zorzi (ITA), Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and 2013-2014 title holder Scott Brash (GBR), the top six on the leader board separated by a mere 15 points.

Brash, Ahlmann and De Luca were all surprise casualties in the qualifying round as their four-fault rounds left them outside the vital top 24.

In the large sand arena a true 1.60m test awaited the 24-strong starters. Uliano Vezzani (ITA) had built width on the oxers that was truly daunting, but offered little to worry this top tier field and it proved a generously inviting track.

A wide triple bar at fence three to a lofty vertical followed by a two-stride double of water trays at fence five, required power and accuracy early on the track. The return of the Longines treble midway round the track typically featured two verticals with a big wide oxer out — it required a big jumping effort and the poles here fell most frequently. Then there was one final punch over the 1.55m high, 1.70m wide, Longines oxer under the packed grandstands and the 86s target time proved generous after an end-to-end challenge. A total of nine remained faultless and the stage was set for a fascinating final finale.

Smolders couldn’t produce the fairytale finish, just missing out on a jump-off place with an unlucky four faults at the double. And when Fair Light van’t Heike (Vigo d'Arsouilles x Darco) put in an uncharacteristic stop at the Longines treble for Zorzi, his chance of a podium finish diminished. Only Van der Vleuten remained for the leading podium contenders and he was first out of the blocks in the jump-off.

The shortened track featured two crucial turns and a tempting run down over the final Longines oxer under the packed stands, and the Dutchman riding the spirited stallion VDL Groep Verdi TN (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I) set a solid clear of 37.76s. But van der Vleuten exited shaking his head, knowing he’d left the door ajar for his pursuers.

European Champion Peder Fredricson and H&M Christian K upped the pace whilst remaining well anchored round the pivotal corners and they slipped into the lead in 37.41s.

Setting off in top gear, Janika Sprunger and Bacardi VDL pushed all the way round, shaving just a fraction off the Swede’s time to give us another new leader in 37.34s.

The young Kevin Jochems (NED) with the scopey chestnut Alcazar Sitte (Rexar du Houssoit x Nabab de Reve) followed the Swiss rider’s route but ground to a shuddering halt off the bend to the penultimate vertical.

Great applause filled the arena as home rider Bassam Hassan Mohammed and the big striding Gunder powered round. A big push was required to the penultimate fence and he swept home at full pelt and straight into the lead in by a good two-second margin, to the excitement of home supporters.

Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) and California (L'esprit x Libero H) hit a big early vertical then Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Clooney (Cornet Obolensky x Ferragamo) also posted a four-fault round. Tension rippled round the stands as, with only two players left to perform, the Qatari rider was guaranteed a podium place.

Pieter Devos (BEL) revved through the start and Espoir (Surcouf De Revel x Laudanum XX) relished the challenge, showing utmost agility through the double, but succumbing to a rail at the penultimate vertical.

It all hinged on last-to-go Kevin Staut (FRA) and Silver Deux De Virton HDC (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Heartbreaker). The speedy Frenchman appeared set for victory, but when the Longines fence fell, the crowd erupted with joy as home hero Bassem took the win. 


Source: LGCT press release // Picture © LGCT / Stefano Grasso

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