Sheikh Ali, Bassem lead Qatar’s hopes at GCT fi­nal

THIS IS SIXTH TIME THE STATE-OF-THE-ART AL SHAQAB ARENA WILL BE HOST­ING THE FI­NALS OF THE GCT SE­RIES

Gulf Times Sport - - FRONT PAGE - By Sports Re­porter

Bassem Has­san Mo­hamed will look to re­peat his last year’s hero­ics, while Sheikh Ali bin Khalid alThani will be eye­ing his first win as the Global Cham­pi­ons Tour (GCT) re­turns to Al Shaqab from to­mor­row.

This is sixth time the sta­teof-the-art Al Shaqab arena will be host­ing the fi­nals of the GCT se­ries. Top rid­ers and horses will line up for three days of ac­tion with spec­ta­tors sure to be treated to showjump­ing of high quality.

All eyes will be on home heroes Bassem and Sheikh Ali as they com­pete with world class rid­ers to win prize money worth €1,700,000. Bassem had made his­tory last year by be­com­ing the first home rider to clinch GCT Grand Prix ti­tle here. While Bassem will be aim­ing for an en­core, Sheikh Ali would be keen to win for the first time.

On the eve of the cham­pi­onship, Sheikh Ali said Bassem’s win last year showed how Qatari rid­ers had ben­e­fited from host­ing GCT over the years.

“I have al­ways been hon­oured to rep­re­sent my coun­try in this ex­cit­ing and strong com­pe­ti­tion, where the elite rid­ers will par­tic­i­pate. Ten years ago we dreamt of host­ing one round of GCT and now we have hosted the event for six years. The cham­pi­onship, horses and rid­ers in­volved have given a huge boost to eques­trian sport in Qatar, and it showed when Bassem won here last year,” Sheikh Ali said.

“The level of jump­ing in the cham­pi­onship is very high and helps in the per­for­mance of the Qatari rid­ers. With­out a doubt, bring­ing the best rid­ers in the world to par­tic­i­pate in the big­gest com­pe­ti­tion will at­tract and in­spire young peo­ple in Qatar to take up the sport,” he added.

Sheikh Ali him­self has ben­e­fited im­mensely while com­pet­ing with top rid­ers in Doha and around the world. He fin­ished a cred­itable sixth at the 2016 Rio Olympics and ear­lier this year won sil­ver at the Asian Games in Jakarta. “I have had great past one year. I had a good re­sult in Lon­don and also in the Asiad. I hope we do well here in Al Shaqab this week­end. The GCT is the num­ber one league in the world for eques­trian and we are proud that the cham­pi­onship is be­ing held in Qatar,” he said.

Great Bri­tain’s Ben Maher has al­ready wrapped up this year’s GCT ti­tle, but there is in­tense bat­tle for sec­ond po­si­tion with seven rid­ers in con­tention to fin­ish run­ner-up. Just 28 points sep­a­rate sec­ond place rider Italy’s Al­berto Zorzi (237 points) and Ger­many’s Chris­tian Ahlmann (209 points) in eighth – and with 40 points for a win there is ev­ery­thing to play for.

Third in the rank­ings is 2017 over­all cham­pion Har­rie Smol­ders (NED), just three points away from Al­berto on a score of 234, and fourth is Daniel Deusser (GER) just a fur­ther point away on 233 over­all. Scott Brash (GBR) holds fifth with a tally of 225, two time LGCT Grand Prix win­ner Ni­cola Philip­paerts (BEL) sits in sixth with 219 and two time LGCT ti­tle holder Ed­wina Tops-Alexan­der (AUS) is on 212 over­all.

Doha will also pro­vide the last chance for in­di­vid­ual rid­ers to qual­ify for the GCT Su­per Grand Prix at the GC Play­offs in Prague this December, with all eyes on who will take the fi­nal golden ticket to the 16-rider show­down.

Mean­while, Ali al-Ru­maihi, the event di­rec­tor, re­vealed that like last year the third leg of the Hathab Na­tional Eques­trian se­ries will also be held si­mul­ta­ne­ously with GCT.

“As was had done last year, we have also in­cor­po­rated Hathab as part of GCT. Hathab is an ini­tia­tive of HE Sheikh Joaan bin Ha­mad al-Thani, pres­i­dent of the Qatar Olympic Com­mit­tee. It is aimed at im­prov­ing the stan­dard of horse rid­ing among Qatari youths and to grow aware­ness of horse­man­ship as part of Qatar’s his­tory and tra­di­tion,” he said.

“Events such as the Global Cham­pi­ons Tour go a long way to­wards ful­fill­ing Al Shaqab’s vision of be­ing a global and lead­ing global cen­tre for equine ex­cel­lence and pro­vid­ing an en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for the com­mu­nity. It helps to pro­mote horse­man­ship, in­cul­cate pas­sion as well as pro­mot­ing Qatar’s eques­trian her­itage,” al-Ru­maihi added.

Be­sides top class com­pe­ti­tion, there are plenty of things to look for­ward to for spec­ta­tors in­clud­ing pony rides, jump­ing cas­tles, a variety of kids’ ac­tiv­i­ties, out­door cafes and other F&B out­lets. In ad­di­tion, the or­gan­is­ers have also set up a flea mar­ket pro­vid­ing lo­cal en­trepreneurs an op­por­tu­nity to show­case and pro­mote their prod­ucts. beIN Sports will tele­cast the three-day cham­pi­onship.

Jan Tops, the founder and pres­i­dent of the GCT, said: “Al Shaqab is a spe­cial place and we love to be here in Qatar. The fa­cil­ity is just top class and so is the or­gan­i­sa­tion. The rid­ers too love come to Qatar as they know they only get best of the fa­cil­i­ties here.”

Qatar rider Sheikh Ali bin Khalid al-Thani (right), event di­rec­tor Ali al-Ru­maihi, GCT founder and pres­i­dent Jan Tops and Sport­ing Di­rec­tor of GCT Marco Danese at a press con­fer­ence at Al Shaqab yes­ter­day. At right, file photo of Bassem Mo­hamed in ac­tion.

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