Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October – 26, 2023 – The opening day of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Riyadh kicked off in style with a lightning-fast 1.45m speed class presented by Invest Saudi.
The world’s top horse and rider combinations gathered from around the globe in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to vie for top honors. It was Rodrigo Giesteira Almeida (POR) and Pegasus Cekanane who denied Saudi Arabia a home win as he stopped the clock in 61.26 sec. Three seconds behind him, Abdullah Alsharbatly (KSA) and Atome des Etisses claimed second place, setting the home crowd cheering in anticipation and celebration, while Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and Luigi d’Eclipse took the last podium spot.
With a backdrop of the city’s breathtaking skyline of King Abdullah Financial District, a marvel of contemporary architecture and urban design, and the warm Arabian sun casting its golden glow, the stage was set for a thrilling showcase of show jumping excellence. The presentation was made by His Excellency Khalid Al Feleh, Minister of Investment along with LGCT Founder and President Jan Tops the arena was alight for an evening of world-class entertainment.
The course proved to be a test of skill and strategy, built by renowned international coursebuilder Uliano Vezzani (ITA), the very best of the show jumping world took to the arena in a flex of muscles. 40 riders took to the arena to tackle the testing track with 13 clear rounds proving just how fast the combinations needed to be.
Speaking exclusively with Rosie Tapner for GCTV, Rodrigo Giesteira Almeida (POR) spoke of riding under the glittering Arabian skies, supported by the owners of his horses and a bustling local and international crowd. “I love to be here, I love the atmosphere, I love the people, and I think it is the best place to have this kind of show jumping, so I’m very blessed to be here and am going to try my best all weekend to bring the best results.”
From Harrie Smolders (NED) aboard Deesse de Kerglenn and Malin Baryard-Johnsson (SWE) with Diamantino 16, to homegrown hero Abdulrahman Alrajhi aboard Ventago, the placings were littered with the world’s best.
Kim Emmen (NED) and riding Macho V and Jodie Hall McAteer (GBR) with Itoulavsca Fortuna both jumped flawless rounds but were caught out by the time allowed collecting a single-time fault.
Setting himself up perfectly for chasing the LGCT Championship title on Saturday Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) proved once again why he is one of the three contenders for the season title. Making all the inside turns with Luigi d’Eclipse look easy, they took an early lead.
However, he didn’t stay in the lead for long when Rodrigo Giesteira Almeida (POR) took to the arena all guns blazing on Pegasus Cekanane. At a gallop from the get-go and losing no time in the air, the pair cut over three seconds off the time to beat and stormed into the lead putting the pressure on the rest of the field to go.
Abdullah Alsharbatly (KSA) gave it an impressive go with 13-year-old Atome des Etisses but he couldn’t match Almeida and slotted into second place as the home crowd cheered him out of the arena.
Day one of what is unfolding into a nail-biting week of show jumping in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s culture-infused capital, set hearts racing from the luxury VIP Hospitality right through to the buzzing village.
As the sun set over the picturesque Riyadh skyline, anticipation began to mount as all eyes now look ahead to the GCL Championship Final, due to take place tomorrow afternoon [Friday], local time, as well as the Longines Global Champions Tour Championship Final on Saturday.
Final Results – €26,200 Invest Saudi CSI 5*
1) Rodrigo Giesteira Almeida (POR) & Pegasus Cekanane – 0 – 61.26
2) Abdullah Al Sharbatly (KSA) & Atome des Etisses – 0 – 64.65
3) Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) & Luigi d’Eclipse – 0 – 64.85
Source: Press Release from Global Champions League
Photos: © LGCT – Jorge Cunha