by Berry Pattison
Bahrain stole the show when claiming both the Team and Individual Championship titles at the FEI World Endurance Championships for Juniors and Young Riders 2015 staged in Parque Tricao, Santo Domingo in Chile at the weekend. Representatives from across the globe were in attendance, with a total of 59 starters and 11 teams in action. However Bahrain had the distinction of being the only country to have all five representatives finish successfully.
The stunning vineyard region, some 100km south of Santiago, played host to competitors from as far afield as Malaysia, South Africa and Sweden, and from the very outset the organisers faced major challenges.
Just over a month before the Championships were due to take place, an 8.3 magnitude earthquake hit the host country, with the epicenter just 600km from the venue.
Finally, just as the Organising Committee must have thought everything was on track, only four days before the much-anticipated event was due to begin, freak winds blew through the venue causing huge damage and leaving much of the infrastructure razed to the ground.
Spectacle of sportsmanship
Despite such drama and potential difficulties the event itself passed without any major issues and was a spectacle of excellent sportsmanship and camaraderie set in one of the most picturesque regions of South America.
The 120km track was made up of five loops stretching out across the Chilean countryside taking in steep, gravel byways, deep, dusty tracks and stretches along the Santo Domingo coastline. Athletes were warned beforehand that wise horsemanship, nimbleness and careful thinking would be required to successfully negotiate such a track – a big ask for the young riders, all aged between just 14 and 21. However they listened carefully and took it all in their stride, both metaphorically and physically. With one of the highest completion rates in recent times at a Championship, the future of Endurance is most certainly looking bright.
Individual Gold was won by Fahad Helal Mohamed Al Khatri (BRN) aboard the 12 year old bay gelding Poly de Coat Frity. The Anglo Arab only joined the Royal Bahrain Endurance Team in September this year following his excellent performance at the CEI3* 160km Rambouillet (FRA). Al Khatri couldn’t have asked for a better start to their career together.
The pair passed through the first vet gate in eighth place after the first 30km loop. As the day progressed they steadily made their way up the field to fourth place at the second vet gate, then improved to second at the third vet gate and slotted into first at the final vet gate with a 30-second lead over Mansour Saeed Mohd Al Faresi (UAE) with Hotspur Thabor.
An incredibly strong performance over the final 20km extended those 30 seconds to nearly 30 minutes, and resulted in an easy finish as the spritely pair trotted over the finish line encompassed in a cloud of dust to take Individual Gold and the coveted Best Conditioned Award.
Silver and bronze
Individual Silver and Bronze went to the only two finishers from the United Arab Emirates. Despite leaving on the final loop in second place, Al Faresi was overtaken by compatriot Saeed Mohd Khalifa Al Mehairi with Sirocco des Comtie. A successful vetting for both completed the podium.
Bahrain dominated much of the top ten, taking fourth, fifth and tenth positions. The final horse-and-rider partnership from Bahrain crossed the line in 11th place, just over an hour after the winning horse and rider. The highest-placed home competitor was 19 year old Pablo Llompart who took sixth position aboard El Pangue Ciromagnum with whom he won the Championship Trial Run in April of this year.
The Team results were fairly spread out, with several hours separating the medallists. Bahrain finished with a total time of 17:38:16, knocking 2011 World Champions Uruguay into silver medal position. Qatar completed the podium taking bronze in a time of 21:00:34, over 1.5 hours slower than Uruguay. South Africa and Ecuador were the only other teams to have three or more combinations complete.
FEI President, Ingmar De Vos, attended the Championships and said yesterday,
“I’ve been visiting National Federations across South America for the past couple of weeks and it has been an inspirational experience.
“I have witnessed for myself the commitment, energy, dedication and enthusiasm of the people on the ground who are clearly having a huge impact on the expansion and development of the sport here.
“Encouraging the participation of young athletes and providing them with every possible educational opportunity are key elements to the future success of all sports, and I’d like to congratulate the Organising Committee at Santo Domingo for providing a truly excellent event for this weekend’s FEI World Endurance Championship for Young Riders and Juniors”.
FEI World Endurance Team Championship for Juniors and Young Riders 2015:
Gold - Bahrain (17:38:16): Fahad Helal Mohamed Al Khatri with Poly de Coat Frity (05:20:57); Salem Mubarak Sabt with WH Picos Shazam (06:07:02); Sh. Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa with Samira de Charles (06:10:17) : Silver - Uruguay (19:32:22): Valentin Silva with Indio Loco LP (06:21:59); Frederik Maidana with RN Frambuesa (06:22:00); Santiago Cabrera with Marche Preso Molles (06:48:23): Bronze - Qatar (21:00:34): Nasser Jumah Jassim Al Mohannadi with Qualyko de la Roque (06:17:12); Jassim Rashid M H Al Kaabi with Esmadouha de Galahad (06:33:30); Mohammed Nasser Bughenaim with Ali Dahmas (08:09:52).
FEI World Endurance Individual Championship for Juniors and Young Riders 2015: Gold - Fahad Helal Mohamed Al Khatri (BRN) with Poly de Coat Frity 05:20:57 (22.43kph); Silver - Saeed Mohd Khalifa Al Mehairi (UAE) with Sirocco des Comtie
05:47:09 (20.74); Bronze - Mansour Saeed Mohd Al Faresi (UAE) with Hotspur Thabor 05:51:57 (20.46).