Niels Bruynseels wins GCT Grand Prix opener in Doha

Belgian rider Bruynseels and Delux took victory in Qatar from Italy's Lorenzo De Luca and Canada's 2008 Olympic champion Eric Lamaze.

By Rory Jiwani
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Niels Bruynseels and Delux won a seven-horse jump off to take the first round of the 2021 Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Doha on Saturday (6 March).

The Belgian equestrian jumper trailed Lorenzo De Luca and Nuance Bleue by three-tenths of a second at the midway checkpoint, but a speedy second half saw them stop the clock in 39.93s, 0.27s inside the Italian's time.

Canada's Beijing 2008 Olympic champion Eric Lamaze, with Dieu Merci, took third in 40.35s after going fastest in Round A.

Scott Brash and Hello Vincent were last to go and well ahead on the clock, but the Briton had the last two fences down to end up in sixth place ahead of Germany's Marcus Ehning (Stargold).

Bart Bles of the Netherlands was fourth on board Kriskras DV with German Christian Kukuk and Mumbai in fifth.

Bruynseels said in his post-competition interview, "I have to really thank my horse. I think he is one of the best horses in the world. He made a difference for me. I was a bit lucky in the jump-off but you need luck to win, I think.

"He jumped amazing last week and he felt so good. I was really confident in him and he did it for me today."

The win sees Bruynseels gain automatic entry to the LGCT Super Grand Prix in Prague in November.

Equine herpes casts shadow over Doha event

The equestrian world has been left reeling by an outbreak of equine herpes (EHV-1) which forced the cancellation of the CES Valencia Spring Tour last month.

Two horses from the German team died from the virus, and one horse tested positive while in isolation after arriving in Doha.

Quarantine measures were brought in for another German horse and two Colombian mounts arriving from Valencia.

This caused considerable worry among participants with Sydney 2000 team gold medallist Ehning telling the media, "This is of course a huge topic here. Of course everyone hopes that no other horses are infected."

The virus outbreak is said to be one of the worst for several decades with the FEI cancelling all international competitions in Germany and other European countries until at least 28 March.

Sweden is one of those countries which means the FEI World Cup Finals in jumping and dressage, scheduled for Gothenburg from 31 March to 4 April, are in doubt.

The GCT opener was allowed to take place in Doha with 38 riders battling for top honours on a challenging course at Al Shaqab.

Rio 2016 silver medallist Peder Fredricson failed to make the jump-off after having one fence down and had to settle for 10th.

The season, viruses permitting, comprises 14 events followed by the Finals in New York in September and then the ultimate showdown at the GC Prague Playoffs in November.

The next round is scheduled for Shanghai at the end of April.