LGCT: Smolders leads the star cast as riders eye glory at Al Shaqab Arena

 09 Nov 2017 - 0:03

LGCT: Smolders leads the star cast as riders eye glory at Al Shaqab Arena
Omar Al Mannai, Event Director, Jan Tops (right) Founder and President of the Longines Global Champions Tour, and Marco Danese the Global Champions Tour Sports Director, pose for a group photo after the pre-event press conference at Al Shaqab yesterday.

The Peninsula

New LGCT champion and points leader Harrie Smolders from the Netherlands will be eyeing another victorious week of riding at Al Shaqab Arena where he will lock horns against Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca and Germany’s Christian Ahlmann at the three-day event.
Smolders, who made history this year by taking the title at the penultimate event in Rome, has an overall tally of 278.00 points ahead of this week’s final round of the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) calendar.
De Luca (260.00) and Ahlmann (257.00) are the next two on the points table. Italy’s Alberto Zorzi has a tally of 255 points.
Popular rider and two-time LGCT champion Scott Brash of Great Britain will also be seen in action besides Canada’s Eric Lamaze, Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet, France’s Kevin Staut, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten.
Smolders said: “In the Global Champions Tour the level is very, very high because we have the best horses and the best riders in the world. A higher level is not possible.”
Brash said: “The level of competition on the GCT circuit is so high, so to win a Grand Prix or League class you and your horse have to be at the absolute top of your game.”
Lorenzo de Luca said: “I will be giving everything to keep the second place in the overall LGCT championship ranking. GCT is one of the best and most difficult circuits in the world.”
Event Director Omar Al Mannai (pictured right) said: “We are pleased to host the final leg of the LGCT Tour. Looking at the Qatar National Vision 2030, we believe that Qatar is the sports hub of the region. The LGCT is such an event that supports this Vision as the best of riders and horses are in Qatar.” Al Mannai added: “We are trying to promote the sport of equestrian in the community. We are engaging with the community by conducting certain activities at the event this week. We are trying to bring the young kids in and then educate about our traditional sport.”
Al Mannai said Al Shaqab was created to take equestrian to a new level of popularity. “As you know H H the Father Emir laid the foundation of Al Shaqab in 1992. It was to preserve our racing or riding heritage with eye on the Pure Arabian breed. This sport is a reflection of our sporting heritage,” Al Mannai said.
“Over the years Al Shaqab has grown so huge that it is a centre for education, a hub for showjumping - in short if is centre of equestrian art. Considering this we focus more on the young generation by giving them the right education, the right coaching, the right environment to grow and learn. Horsemanship is an art form and we want our future generation to learn the right way,” he added.“National riders will also compete at Al Shaqab this week with the opportunity to see their home and Olympic heroes such as Sheikh Ali bin Khalid Al Thani and Bassem Hassan Mohammend in action,” Al Mannai said.
Walter von Känel, President of Longines, said in a statement: “We are pleased to be back at the magnificent Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre which will once again provide the perfect backdrop for this much-awaited final of the series. Our brand also looks forward to the weekend’s highlight, the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Doha, to which we lend our name.”