Sweden’s world number eight, Henrik von Eckermann rode to stylish victory in the CSI4* Grand Prix presented by Longines and Al Shira’aa Stables at the Al Shira’aa International Horse Show tonight (Saturday), on his talented bay stallion, Chacanno.
The class, which brought the curtain down on the four-day show at the Al Forsan International Sports Resort in Abu Dhabi, consisted of two challenging rounds with the fences set at 1.60m.
There were 42 riders listed on the starting orders, but only 12 of those bested the first-round course, designed by Portugal’s renowned course builder, Bernardo Costa Cabral, to earn a place in the second round.
Among them were German rider, Philipp Weishaupt and Che Fantastica, already winners earlier in the week at the Al Shira’aa International Horse Show, six-time Olympic rider and former World and European Champion and team Olympic gold medalist, Jos Lansink representing Belgium and riding Valdelamadre Clooney.
Also in the group continuing in the competition were Saudi Arabia’s Olympic bronze medalist and World Equestrian Games silver medalist, Abdullah Sharbatly and Crazy Quick -another partnership that had already won at the show.
Third to go, Von Eckermann seemingly flew through the jump off course without touching a pole in 39.65 sec, more than a second faster than previous leader, Weishaupt’s 40.86 sec round. Italy’s Natale Chiaudani was third on Almero in a time of 46.92 sec.
Von Eckermann, the European silver medalist, had watched Weishaupt’s round closely and knew he would have to take risks if he wanted to win.
“I had Philipp [Weishaupt] in front of me and he was already quick so that put a bit of pressure on my shoulders,” he said. “I knew I had to risk a little bit and go a little bit. Philipp started off with five strides and I wanted to do that but then I realised that was too long, so I did six. Then I knew I had to get going so I got going.
“The horse is amazing. He is very, very careful and then when it comes to the jump off he’s a very quick horse. So I knew I could win it I just had to do the right thing.”
The day’s opening class, the Longines Presents International Jumping with Jump Off was won by UAE rider, Mohammed Shafi H Al Remeithi on the speedy grey mare, Doxanne B.
The second-to-go out of a huge jump-off field of 26, Al Remeithi was forced to sit through the torture of watching 24 other riders attempt to better his time.
And a few of them came close. Jordan’s Ahmed M.N Mansour and Estoril de Vardag would have given the watching Al Remeithi a few uncomfortable moments with their 31.82 sec round for second place and Denmark’s multiple champion, Tina Lund was third with Payse Heutiere with a time of 32.08 sec.
“It was a hard course and there were a lot of good riders,” said Al Remeithi. “There were 26 in the jump and I went second because I couldn’t watch the rounds so it put a lot of pressure on me.
“But I did the best that I could and she is a very fast mare and she really proved it.”
Irish Team Z7 rider, Shane Breen was not to be stopped this weekend, following up his three victories earlier in the show with another CSI4* win in the Sheikh Zayed Bin Haza Al Nahyan Presentss International Jumping Competition with Jump Off.
Mounted on Laith, he was clear in a time of 33.63 sec, a convincing margin ahead of the 35.15 sec time of the second-placed Artiste de l’Abbaye d’Aulne and world number eight, Henrik Von Eckermann from Sweden.
Portugal’s Luis Sabino Goncalves and Teck de Riverland were third in a time of 35.19 sec.
The Al Shira’aa International Horse Show, now in its second year, is staged by Al Shira’aa Stables, the company founded by Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, which this week announced its sponsorship of the UAE Showjumping Team.