The UAE’s Sheikh Ali Al Qassimi didn’t need to think twice about competing in the Gulf Elite Tour, claiming the competition will not only help produce more talented riders but also raise the profile of showjumping in the region.
The inaugural event takes place at Al Habtoor Polo Club Thursday and Friday with approximately 100 riders from the region and around the world set to compete.
Sheikh Ali, 25, is among those to feature in the field while 2012 Olympic gold medallist Scott Brash has confirmed his participation.
Supported by the region’s ruling families and as part of the Emirates Longines League, it gives riders the chance to compete regularly, with this week’s event the first of six, each held monthly, on the calendar.
The competitors will be aiming to win points in their bid to qualify for April’s Grand Prix finale.
Having ridden for more than 15 years in a career that has seen him represent the country at the 2010 Youth Olympics as well as win this year’s Dubai Grand Prix, Sheikh Ali has seen the sport grow hugely, but is convinced the Gulf Elite Tour will take the sport to another level.
“I was engaged with the idea as it’s something new to our sport and it will add value to a sport that I’ve been doing more than 15 years,” said Sheikh Ali, who is one of the ambassadors. “I didn’t really need to think about it (on competing).
“I’ve been around the world and competed at international shows. I could see the potential and the talent of the UAE riders but asked myself why we cannot go and win an Olympic medal? What I realise is we need more exposure and more shows to compete and the Gulf Elite Tour is perfect for that.”
Each leg will not only see a series of contests but a lot of fan activities – something that Sheikh Ali says is crucial for people to gain interest.
“We want to encourage people to take up the sport and not just by watching the horses jumping but enjoy the activities,” he said.
Rosanna Chopra, founder of the Gulf Elite Tour, says there are plans to expand the competition to other countries.
“This year it will all be in the UAE because it’s new. We have had invitations from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and there is an appetite to do it in Singapore and take the tour to Asia,” she said.
WHAT: Gulf Elite Tour
WHERE: Al Habtoor Polo Club
WHEN: Thursday from 16:00 – 21:00, Friday from 11:00 – 23:00
Ghaiyyath took the step up to G3 level in his stride with a convincing victory in the Masar Godolphin Autumn Stakes over a mile on day two of the Dubai Future Champions Festival at Newmarket yesterday.
The two-year-old Dubawi colt, an easy winner of a maiden over the same course and distance on September 28, was slightly slow leaving the stalls and tracked the leaders in fourth of the eight runners under William Buick.
Relegated to a close sixth at the halfway stage he quickened smartly between horses at the two-furlong marker to take second soon after.
Ghaiyyath reeled in Dream Today entering the final furlong and stayed on powerfully in the closing stages to win by a length and three-quarters in a quick time of 1m 35.92s on ground described as good, good to firm in places.
Trainer Charlie Appleby said: “We were confident that Ghaiyyath had come forward from his last run and I was delighted with his performance today.
“We didn’t want to keep making the running and I was very pleased to see him take a lead, get into a nice rhythm and pick up when asked.
“Ghaiyyath is a horse that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has a lot of faith in. He is in the Racing Post Trophy (G1, 1m, Doncaster, October 28) but potentially we might put him away for the year. We will discuss it on Monday.
“His forte is going to be stepping up in trip, hopefully to a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half, and we hope that he can go for a Derby trial in the spring.
“Physically, he has always been a very imposing horse and a good-looking animal. He is a big horse with a nice-sized engine and has always been enthusiastic at home.”
Meanwhile in Melbourne a close second in the G1 Caulfield Guineas by Kementari and a third placing to Alizee in the G1 Thousand Guineas has confirmed the strength and depth of Godolphin’s Australian three-year-old team.
While the frustration of the two placings was acute, trainer James Cummings shrugged it off as he looked to the future with two of the country’s best three-year-olds.
“Kementari had already shown us he is a genuinely classy colt and he proved it with that run,” Cummings said. “He didn’t have the best of luck, but he put himself into the race and had it won until a few strides from the line.”
Ghaiyyath, Promising Run and Rastrelli will all bid for further success at Newmarket on day two of the Dubai Future Champions Festival today.
Two-year-old Ghaiyyath (Charlie Appleby/James Doyle) lines up in the mile G3 Masar Godolphin Autumn Stakes following a comprehensive maiden success over the same course and distance on September 28, when he made all to score by five lengths.
The Dubawi colt, who was third over the same trip on debut at Doncaster on September 15, takes on eight rivals including G2 Royal Lodge Stakes fourth Petrus, G3 Sol-ario Stakes third Arbalet and Naas maiden winner Flag Of Honour.
“I was pleased with Ghaiyyath’s course and distance victory and he came out of that race very well,” said Appleby. “This looks the logical next step and I am confident that he is going into the race in very good order. I am hopeful of a very bold showing.”
Promising Run (Saeed bin Suroor/Pat Cosgrave), who captured the G2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket in 2015, goes in the G3 Darley Club Stakes over nine furlongs.
The four-year-old Hard Spun Filly has won at G2 level earlier this year, when running on strongly to take the nine-furlong Al Rashidiya at Meydan in January, and was fourth on her return from a break in a Goodwood Listed contest over a furlong further on September 27.
She opposes 11 others headed by G2 victor Sovereign Debt, G3 scorer Fabricate, G1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp fourth Robin Of Navan and York handicap winner Fidaawy.
“Promising Run is a nice filly, who always tries hard” said bin Suroor. “She has come on for her run at Goodwood and is ready to go. This is the right trip for her and I am looking for a better result.”
Rastrelli (Appleby/Doyle) comfortably won a mile nursery handicap at Newmarket on September 28 and the two-year-old colt steps up in class and trip for the 10-furlong Listed Godolphin Flying Start Zetland Stakes.
“Rastrelli did his best work towards the end over a mile last time and I feel that the step up to 10 furlongs is going to suit. He goes into this race in good shape,” added Appleby.
The trainer already had cause to celebrate when three-year-old colt First Nation won the Old Rowley Cup Handicap on the first day of the Festival yesterday.