Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab begins

DOHA, French rider Julien Epaillard yesterday returned to his favourite hunting ground with a bang. The 42-year-old French show jumping star did well to lay down the marker for the rest week by notching two wins on day one of the Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab.

The first day was attended by HE President of the Qatar Olympic Committee Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani.

Epaillard, astride 11-year-old Virtuose Champeix, clinched the battle in the 1.55m class, edging Great Britain’s Scott Brash to the top spot with a flawless routine.

Earlier in the day, he guided Alibi de la Roque to the top spot in the two-phased 1.45m class held on the outdoor venue of Longines Arena at Al Shaqab.

Last year at the same venue, Epaillard won the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix with Usual Suspect d’Auge.

I’m very happy with both wins today. It was a very fast race (1.55m), but the horse performed fantastic. I have no complaints. It’s always a pleasure to come back to the Al Shaqab Arena and win here, Epaillard said after winning the feature event with Virtuose Champeix in a time of 64.09 seconds.

The Frenchman, who trained since childhood at his parents’ equestrian center in Normandy, yesterday got richer by Euros 23,725.

Second-placed Brash, astride 11-year-old gelding Hello Shelby, was a tad slower (64.25 seconds).

Brash, who won a gold medal with the British squad in the team event at the London Olympics in 2012, yesterday picked up Euros 18,980 for his second spot.

Even though I finished second, I’m not disappointed. It was a good round and I’m looking forward to the next few events, Brash, winner of the 2017 CHI Al Shaqab title, said after the prize distribution ceremony.

Dana Blue, who had Dutch rider Maikel van der Vleuten in the saddle, finished in third spot. Dana Blue clocked 65.87 seconds as Van Der Vlueten won Euros 14,235.

French rider Kevin Staut (Visconti du Telman, 66.08 seconds, Euros 9,490) and Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann (Fancy Me, 66.48 seconds, Euros 6,643) completed the top five out of 44 entries.

Earlier in the evening, Epailard was in the saddle to guide Alibi de la Roque to the top spot in the two-phased 1.45m class.

Alibi de la Roque, 10 years old, clocked a time 25.10 seconds as Epaillard won the top prize of Euros 6,350.

Dutch rider Van der Vlueten, astride 11-year-old Edinburg, secured the second spot in a time of 26.18 seconds.

Van der Vlueten got richer by Euros 5,080.

Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano finished third with 10-year-old Kingston van het Eikenhof. Gaudiano picked up Euros 3,180 as Kingston van het Eikenhof clocked 26.27 seconds.

Belgium’s Jerome Guery (Eras Ste Hermelle, 26.35 seconds, Euros 2,540) and compatriot Jos Verlooy (Fabregas, 27.12 seconds, 1,778) completed the top five.

The day’s proceedings kicked off with the para-dressage competition at the Indoor Arena.

Norway’s seasoned rider Jens Lasse Dokkan topped the first competition (Grade 1) with Aladdin. The 58-year-old Norwegian managed a tally of 73.988 points.

Austria’s Pepo Puch (astride Fuerst Chili, 74.293 points), Dutchman Rixt van der Horst (Findsley NOP, 72.500), Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla (Don Frederic, 74.500) and Belgium’s Ciska Vermeulen (Rohmeo, 72.132) clinched top spots in Grade II, Grade III, Grade IV and Grade V respectively.

Meanwhile, Vice-Chairman of the Supreme Organising Committee, Khalifa Al Attiyah welcomed the top riders to Longines Arena at Al Shaqab.

The Longines Arena at Al Shaqab has come alive as top riders from around the world are competing at Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines, in the 7th edition of this premier international competition, Al Attiyah said.

He added: Riders and their horses, equestrian enthusiasts, and guests will enjoy the thrills and excitement of outstanding competition during Al Shaqab’s signature event, one of only five CHI competitions worldwide and the first and only equestrian event of its kind in the Middle East and Asia region.

Members of the Supreme Organising Committee have been working hard and putting in their utmost effort to ensure the successful execution of the event. To them, I wish to say a big ‘Thank You for a job well done. I would also like to thank our sponsors, Commercial Bank, Longines, and ExxonMobil for their valuable contribution towards making CHI Al Shaqab a success, Al Attiyah said in a statement.

Omar Al Mannai, Event Director and member of the Supreme Organizing Committee, said: Al Shaqab has achieved its goal of developing an equestrian competition that other organisers aspire to and talk about. It underscores Qatar’s ability to organize major sports events. This year is the first time we have Commercial Bank as the event’s title sponsor and we are honoured to have them on board.

Al Mannai added: We are also very proud of our association with Longines, who are the Presenting Partner. Our long-term relationship with Longines is further cemented by the Al Shaqab Arena being renamed as Longines Arena. And, of course, once again we have ExxonMobil on board as Main Sponsor, and we greatly appreciate the support they have shown to Al Shaqab over the years.

Source: Qatar Olympic Committee