ABU DHABI // Katharina Offel of Ukraine rode Fidji Island to two flawless rounds before securing her first Global Champions Tour (GCT) triumph in a jump-off with Gerco Schroder of the Netherlands at the Al Forsan International Sports Resort in the capital.
"My biggest goal at the beginning of the tour was to be on the podium at least once and finally I made it," she said late on Saturday.
"I have a few memorable moments and this latest one will definitely be among them."
Offel said it was not difficult for her to urge Fidji Island to go after the time set by Schroder, a two-time Olympic silver medallist.
"I took that risk because I knew my horse was fast," Offel said. "She's not turning so good but the course looked so good for me with a long run for the last jump. [I] just did it."
She already is looking forward to returning next year to Abu Dhabi, where the final round of the tour will be staged until 2015.
"Abu Dhabi is such a wonderful place," she said. "It will be definitely in my plans for next season. I have visited here some eight, nine years ago, not for competition, but this place has changed so much since then."
The title showdown for the GCT between Edwina Tops-Alexander of Australia and Rolf-Goran Bengtsson of the Netherlands, who were level at the top of the standings, turned out to be an anticlimax with both finishing out of the points. Tops-Alexander retained the GCT crown when she was declared the winner by virtue of better results.
Tops-Alexander and her horse, Cevo Itot du Chateau, made history by becoming the first to win back to back tour titles. She acknowledged it was all down to her "phenomenal" 16-year-old chestnut.
Michael Whitaker of Great Britain, on Antello Z, finished fourth in the Grand Prix event that gave him enough points to move up from sixth and join Tops-Alexander and Bengtsson on the podium.
Jan Tops, the GCT president, said the season had been "fantastic". She added: "We had a different winner at every event, so there was a really high level of competitors all the time and what a close call at the end, which is all very good for our sport," he said.
Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum finished outside the top 18 on Kalaska de Semilly, and Sheikh Shakbout Al Nahyan, the UAE's other entry, retired his horse, Valentinao Balia.
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