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Edwina sets the GCT 2012 season on fire winning the first Grand Prix in Doha.

Edwina Tops-Alexander set the 2012 Global Champions Tour alight in Doha winning the opening leg on her show jumping superstar Cevo Itot du Chateau.

In a dramatic climax to the first Grand Prix of the new season, the reigning 2011 GCT champion beat off her rivals in a high powered seven-strong jump off. Edwina was first to go in the jump off and admitted she did not believe her time of 40.99 was fast enough to win.

Edwina Tops-Alexander

The crucial first Grand Prix of the year marks the start of a very intensive road this year for riders and horses and, for many, it will include the London Olympics this summer. Over 80 horses were flown to Doha, Qatar, for the event which is a key indication of form for the season ahead and is seen as serious preparation for the months ahead.

It was a story of split second timing in the Grand Prix jump off as second place Marco Kutscher of Germany, third place Pius Schwizer and fourth place Billy Twomey all finished within a hair’s breadth of each other on 41.24, 41.32 and 41.44 respectively.

Edwina, the world’s No1 female rider and already GCT’s first euro millionaire, spoke of her delight at winning the €148,500 prize money out of a total of €450,000. Speaking at the post-event press conference she said: “Itot is in great shape. It is his first outdoor show this year. He is 16 years old but he feels fresh and I have had a wonderful show.

“Titus and all my horses have really been super,” said Australian rider Edwina. “Going first in the jump off is definitely difficult. I came out of the ring and said to Jan ‘I don’t think I am fast enough’. But the horse jumped amazingly and as a rider you are only as good as the horse you are sitting on and he was good.” Edwina also praised Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani as “one of the best in the world” and said his courses had delivered top level competition in Doha.

Runner up Marco Kutscher of Germany, who was riding Cornet Obolensky, said: “It was a good jump off and I am really pleased with second place and I am happy my horse is in good form.”

Third place rider Pius Schwizer, who was second in Doha in 2011, praised his horse Verdi III and predicted he has a great future.

Podium Doha 2012

GCT President Jan Tops summed up the jump off and the three days of show jumping in Doha as “absolutely top sport”. Jan said: “The jump off results are amazing, half a second between 1 and 4. This is absolutely top sport, great precision, deft riding.”

A field of 44 riders started out in the Grand Prix of Doha with 16 jumping clear in the first round. A further seven jumped double clears including GCT 2010 winner Marcus Ehning, Christian Ahlmann and Maikel van der Vleuten setting the scene for a true nail biting jump off between some of the giants of the sport today.

The victorious riders were cheered by a passionate crowd as they took a lap of honour under floodlights at the immaculate large sand arena at the Qatar Equestrian Federation’s Al Rayyan last night.

Qatar Equestrian Federation President Hamad bin Abdulrahman Al-Attiyah praised the partnership with GCT and said discussions are underway for 2013. Mr Al Attiyah said at the press conference: “Co-operation with GCT is developing nicely and we are in discussions to see how we can go forward together.”

Leading Qatari rider Sheikh Ali bin Khaled just missed out on the jump off after his super horse Whitaker had the last fence down. In an interivew before the Grand Prix Sheikh Al Thani said: “It is a pleasure for us to have this GCT in Qatar. It is good to start here with the young horse and then we will see about the rest of the year. It is the first time he jumped this Grand Prix. He is just nine this year but I have been impressed so far. In terms of the sport here in Qatar, six riders are doing the 5* now and others want to get there. We have some good riders and that is good for the future.”

Longines is GCT timekeeping partner for Doha and three other events this year. At the press conference Charles Villoz, vice president sales for Longines, said the global brand’s long history of involvement in equestrian sport made for a fitting partnership with GCT.

Mr Villoz said: “We are very glad and very honoured that we are now working with GCT and Doha was a very nice experience. We have this passion. Horse sport for us is very important.”

There was plenty of praise about Doha from Edwina and runners up Marco and Pius.

Edwina said: “I find it really interesting coming to a different culture and I really enjoy coming to this part of the world. There is massive growth here and it is fantastic to have Arab riders involved and very strong in our sport of show jumping.”

Marco spoke about the vast scale of the buildings compared to his hometown in Germany and added: “I have seen the Qatari riders getting better and better and that is good for our sport.”

And for Swiss rider Pius it was all about the weather. He said the sunshine was enough to make him think about relocating to Qatar.

The Global Champions Tour moves to the Oliva Nova resort south of Valencia in Spain next month for the second leg of the 2012 season.

 

Temperature rises as France takes top two podium places in first 5* on Grand Prix day.

French rider Roger-Yves Bost hit the accelerator and took top spot again in Doha in the 5* international before tonight’s first GCT Grand Prix of 2012.

France took first and second places with Roger-Yves and Castle Forbes Cosma finishing on 51.92 and his countryman Philippe Rozier riding Ideal de Roy on 52.67.

Roger-Yves’ exuberant style was a big hit with the local Qatari crowd who urged him on to victory in a repeat of his win in the 5* speed class the day before. The two wins in Doha proving Roger-Yves and Castle Forbes are a powerful combination.

The temperature went up in more ways than one as riders went through their final paces before the Grand Prix as the outside air temperature soared before sundown. Behind the immaculately prepared Al Rayyan arena, a string of Arab racehorses could be seen galloping along the track underlining the importance of equestrian sport in Qatar.

German rider Christian Ahlmann, riding in a bright blue jacket instead of his traditional red,

kept up a cracking pace on his bay gelding Sebastian cutting an inside line through the double and finishing third on 52.88.

The terrific performances set the stage for the highlight of the weekend with the world’s best riders in contention for the Grand Prix and the €450,000 prize money.

A number of the world’s top 30 riders were saving their best horses for the big Grand Prix course designed by Italian Uliano Vezzani.

Leading Qatari riders took the opportunity to gain valuable experience at the top level in front of an enthusiastic home crowd and put in some impressive performances.

Roger-Yves Bost

 

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