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New Zealand grabbed a last-minute victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2018 qualifier at Abu Dhabi in a jump off with Ireland, after both countries tied with only 12 cumulative faults following eight rounds of riding.
It was a brilliant sunny day in Abu Dhabi as 32 riders representing eight different nations gathered to compete in the Middle East leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2018. Syria, Saudi Arabia, and host country the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were vying for only two spots at the finals in Barcelona, Spain, later this year, heightening the excitement for the those teams and the fans who came out to cheer for them.
While the midday heat in the ring was fierce, the horses and riders only had to contend with it for the few minutes they were actually competing, as the practice arena and stabling at the luxurious Al Forsan International Sports Resort hosting the event is entirely air conditioned.
The allowed time of 75 seconds wasn’t a factor for most of the riders, but a sticky triple combination and 3.9-metre water feature caught more than a few jumpers and racked up the four-point faults.
After Round 1, in which the eight teams each sent forth four riders, the results were far from guaranteed. Only New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, and Italy carried four faults forward into Round 2.
The second round proved to be a test for many competitors, and though 11 jumpers managed clear rides in the previous round, only McIntosh of New Zealand and Ireland’s David Simpson on Keoki mustered a second clear.
Lucky for those two, the Abu Dhabi Middle East qualifying leg offered an individual prize of €50,000 to be shared by anyone who pulled double clears, so McIntosh was able to savour an extra sweet triumph.
Italy, in third place behind New Zealand and Ireland, had a great showing, putting pressure on the top two teams and accruing only 20 faults across eight rides, after the worst scores in each round were tossed. Close behind them were Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, all with 24 faults.
Shk. Majid Bin Abdullah Al Qassimi’s final clear ride aboard Celtion in the last Round 2 group clinched a berth for the Emirates and had the crowd impressed with his ability to rally after a tough first round.
Words by Patricia Salem
Images by Martin Dokupil/FEI