It was a history making night for the United Arab Emirates, winners of the €300,000 Challenge Cup at the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final on Friday, September 29, 2017.
In stark contrast to the first qualifier on Thursday, where they finished second to last in a field of 15 participating nations, on Friday night they never touched a pole. Even more impressive, they came out on top without having to call upon their fourth team member. It was something of a walkover, with their three time-faults leaving them six faults clear of the new European champions from Ireland, while Team Brazil slotted into 3rd with an 11-fault finishing score.
“To win with only three riders, that was really amazing, especially after yesterday when we didn’t have best start,” said UAE Chef d’Equipe Karl Schneider. But there was good team spirit, they didn’t give up, they were still fighting tonight, and finally it came out good for us!”
The competition, featuring the seven teams who didn’t make the cut for Saturday night’s series title-decider, took place under the lights of the Real Club de Polo. Both New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates were competing in the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final for the first time this week.
The 33-year-old Abdullah Mohammed Al Marri was first to take on Santiago Varela’s 13-obstacle-course, picking up two time faults aboard Sama Dubai FBH. Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi and Cha Cha Cha posted an extraordinary clear, followed by a single time fault from Mohammed Ghanem Al Hajri and Pour le Poussage. Even without the help of anchorman Sheikh Majid Al Qassimi and Celtion, the UAE already had it all wrapped up.
“Sheikh Majid is normally our best rider, but yesterday he was first to go and he didn’t have a good time,” said Schneider. “Maybe his horse didn’t travel well, but I think that shocked all the other boys and that’s why they didn’t ride well. So we changed the team order for today and put him in last, and I was only joking when I said that maybe he might not have to jump tonight!”
This result, however, is no fluke, but the result of years worth of effort.
“We’ve been working really hard setting the basis for the sport in our country, and for the first time we had more than four riders to choose from for a Nations Cup which was brilliant. We chose the four that were in form and thankfully we did well,” said Al Marri. “I have [had] my mare for six years and I know her very well. She always had potential and I always believed in her, and I’m glad she was able to shine in such an amazing place!”
Based in France where he works as a policeman, Al Marri has been training with USA’s Alice Debany Clero for the last 12 years.
“The other three boys are in my stable in Bonn, Germany, the same place as Henrik von Eckermann, and they were [there] all summer with me. We made a good plan about Abdullah’s shows and Al Marri came with Alice to join us, and the boys got a bit of experience of being together and finally it worked really well!” said Schneider.
Alice Debany Clero, who suffered a badly-broken leg in a fall from a young horse five months ago and has been course-walking all week on crutches, explained her connection to the winning team. “I started working for Princess Haya back in 2000. I coached her at the Olympics in Sydney and we remained very close friends. She hired me in 2005, so I’m about to start my 13th season with Dubai.”
Princess Haya, Former FEI President and wife of Sheikh Mohammed, ruler of Dubai, expressed her pride over the UAE team. “I’m so thrilled, so proud of this success, after all the hard work they’ve invested over the years they really deserved this!”
For the full results, visit this link.
Ph: Thomas Reiner Photography