Just one European rider will line up in the 120km endurance competition at the CHI Al Shaqab competition this weekend, with nearly 60 riders from nine countries vying for €200,000 in prize money at Mesaid racetrack in Qatar.
French national champion Philippe Tomas will ride Perlando HLM from the Al Shaqab stables. Although the horse has spent two months on his farm in Toulouse, coming from Argentina and qualifying in Spain for larger events, it will be the first time Tomas has ridden the horse.
“If I can finish it will be a good result,” he said. “You don’t look towards the rider in front of you but you listen to your horse to make sure that it lasts until the finish line.”
Tomas, a member of the French gold medal European team and silver medalist at the World championship 2012, is ranked number 2 in the world,
This CHI ride will be his fourth start in Qatar. He says the main difference between the Peninsula and France is the speed and the terrain. “At home the course will be twisty and going over various terrain. In Qatar it is straight forward and the terrain is always flat. Therefore the speed is a lot higher.”
Tomas, along with his wife, Sophie, host about 100 horses from Al Shaqab, for competition or breeding, at their Toulouse farm for the European season from March to October.
The horses and their grooms go to competitions most weekend, either for 80 or 120km races, or do shorter stints of 40 or 60km for training towards the season in Qatar that opens in October and lasts for the winter.
The competition on Saturday starts at 5am and the first horse will be at the finish line around midday.
Qatar as a host nation has the largest contingent, with 33 riders. Among them are Faleh Bughenaim, the featherweight rider who was No.1 in the FEI ranking 2014; Abdulrahman Saad Al Sulaiteen, the World Equestrian Games bronze medallist, Qatar’s first WEG medal; Jassim Al Mohannadi, winner of the CEI at CHI AL SHAQAB 2014 and the 2011 Pan-Arab Games tenth-ranked at age 14; and finally, the World’s No 5 Khalid Sanad Al Nuaimi.
Apart from the Qataris, riders are also coming from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Nepal and Yemen.
The ride will consist of two loops of 30 km each and three of 20km.