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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 March 2019

Henrik von Eckermann headlines star-studded Al Shira’aa International Grand Prix line-up

Swede joined by Luciana Diniz and William Funnell at Al Forsan International Sports Resort event, starting on Wednesday

Henrik von Eckermann of Sweden won Al Shira’aa International Grand Prix title in Abu Dhabi last year. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
Henrik von Eckermann of Sweden won Al Shira’aa International Grand Prix title in Abu Dhabi last year. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Henrik von Eckermann is back in Abu Dhabi to defend his Al Shira’aa International Grand Prix title.

But the Swede is not the only high-profile name at the competition, which gets underway at Al Forsan International Sports Resort on Wednesday. Aside from the world No 8, three-time Olympian Luciana Diniz of Portugal and Hickstead Derby winner William Funnell of Britain are expected to grab attention.

The event has a four-star rating by the ranking system, Concours de Saut International (CSI).

Challenging for a share of the €270,000 (Dh1.13 million) prize fund are members of Saudi Arabia’s Asian Games team, including gold medallists Khalid Al Eid, Abdullah Sharbartly and Ramzy Al Duhami, who is also an Olympic bronze medallist.

Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum spearheads the UAE’s challenge which includes Sheikh Majid Al Qasimi, Mohammed Abdullah Al Marri, Ahmed Al Junaibi and Ghanem Al Hajri.

Included for the first time in the competition is the jumping derby, which consists of different types of fences and a regular showjumping class full with ditches, banks and hedges.

“This year we wanted to offer our spectators something different and came with the idea of the jumping derby, which will take place for the first ever time in the region,” event president Omran Al Owais said at the launch ceremony on Sunday.

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“We are very pleased with our rider line-up this year. The high-profile names that we continue to attract for the Al Shira’aa are testament to the quality of the event and also speaks of the growing popularity of the UAE Tour.”

Al Shira’aa Stables in Abu Dhabi hosts three shows during the season that includes the Fatima Bint Mubarak Academy’s Ladies Show and the CSI one-star Al Shira’aa Show.

“The one-star event which launches the Al Shira’aa International Show is another innovation,” Al Owais added.

“We are always looking for different way to support showjumping in the country. The smaller international event can be a stepping stone for the local equestrian community.”

This year’s competition is the third iteration and has already emerged as the premier event in the Middle East.

“The show, which is held over four days, features classes for young riders and juniors as well as young horses in addition to international four-star competitions,” event director Martina Boor said .

Updated: January 6, 2019 04:04 PM

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