The new Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) season kicks off at Al Shaqab tomorrow and the series founder Jan Tops is pleased that the premier five-star event is starting in Doha.
A number of event cancellations last year around the world soured the mood of show jumping lovers but after a rough 2020, things seem to be looking up for Tops.
Doha will launch the 15-stop series that ends in New York in September with play-offs scheduled for November in Prague.
“It is important for us the organisers, the riders and the fans around the world that we are continuing world-class sports especially after missing out on so much last season,” Tops, President and Founder, LGCT and GCL, said yesterday.
“I think last year was unusual with the COVID-19 (situation). Hopefully it will be a little bit better now. It is a bit unusual times and hopefully we will return to the new normal,” Tops said.
“First of all it takes a lot of courage and skills to have an event like this and Al Shaqab deserves praise in hosting two big events,” Tops added.
“Like I always say that this place Al Shaqab, not only is it beautiful, but it’s a friendly place. Everything is well placed. The staff is great when you see how they operate. The horses travel so much and that too is taken care of here.
“Logistics-wise the place is nicely situated. This is the best place you can be from Asia and Europe. It’s winter in Europe and to be racing here is so nice,” Tops said.
“Advantage of Shaqab is it is a huge place and people can be spread around. Some event venues don’t have that kind of luxury.”
Tops, who also provides mentoring to the senior Qatar riding squad, said he expects to see the new season play out nicely.
“I think we are in the process to see our season run smoothly. Everything will go normal. I don’t see our sport will go less. If you see events in Spain and Qatar, there are so many smaller events also. The number of riders and horses is growing in our sport. Our sport is growing tremendously,” Tops said.
Marco Danese, the Sports Director, LGCT, said yesterday riders could barely wait to start the season at Al Shaqab.
“We saw the riders competing last week. I have to say we were surprised by quality of riding and the horses were more fresh. They are used to competing more frequently and they couldn’t do that last year,” Danese said yesterday.
“The level of the riders is very high and that shows the top of our sport. We have Olympic Games champions and LGCT champions here. I think we will have a fantastic show again like last week,” he added.
“It’s a fantastic thing what Al Shaqab does for our sport at the top level. Every year there’s something new for the riders. The riders are very happy to come here.
“Every detail of our sport is looked after well - the main arena, the stables, the clinics are all fantastic. I don’t think there is a better place than Al Shaqab. The teams of Al Shaqab have become experts and take care of other details like travelling, accommodation. It’s really good here.
“That’s very important since last season was very difficult for the entire industry. We had a five-star show here last year and immediately after the Doha round, we had cancellations and it was a strange season - not only for riders but for horses also as they could not do training and preparation as usual.
“We have to thank Al Shaqab for their important role and great effort to do five-star events. We hope this season gives us the possibility of doing a regular season with a lot of five-star shows,” Danese said.