In addition to Germany, Ireland, and Egypt, teams from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria vied to see which of the four would pick up the two Middle East slots for Barcelona.
The course designed by Santiago Varela Ullastres of Spain seemed at first like it might produce too many clears. But the opposite problem turned out to be the case, as Round 1 saw some tough rides.
The time limit of 81 seconds was a sticking point for many riders, and a few horses new to the circuit found the height of the verticals a bit too much. With two rounds of competition for the four riders on each team, endurance was a factor as well.
At the interim break, the German team were in the lead on only 1 penalty point, with Ireland close behind on 4 points. Saudi Arabia were in third on 8 points, with the UAE holding at 12. Jordan stood on 13 points, with both Egypt and Syria tied at 19 points each.
With the setting sun and the use of electric lights in the arena for Round 2, a water jump, unusual for that part of the world, was replaced by an oxer to avoid the horses becoming disoriented by reflections in the water.
Many teams wondered if the change would mean even more precious seconds to reach the finish line, and indeed, a number of riders crossed the beam with time faults.
Only one rider in the entire event rode a double clear, and that was Abdel Said of Egypt, who showed spectacular technique and attention to the clock both times around.
Several riders retired with broken tack, and there were three falls in round two as well, forcing eliminations for those riders. Fortunately, all three riders and their mounts walked away from their accidents without what appeared to be any serious injuries.
By the second rotation in Round 2, pressure was already mounting, as David Simpson of Team Ireland turned in a clear ride well inside the time, followed by a clear round from Germany’s Sven Schlüsselburg with just a 1-second time penalty.
The home crowd went wild in the next rotation as Abdullah Mohd Al Marri had a stellar clear ride that put the UAE in a favourable position to claim a qualifying place for Barcelona. Al Marri was a member of the Emirates team that won the Challenge Cup at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals two years ago, and his experience was invaluable again this weekend.