WEG Continues; Endurance, Para-Dressage Medalists Decided
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum (UAE) and the outstanding mare Yamamah (meaning “little dove” in Arabic) led from the start to finish to win the individual gold medal .
Photo: FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst
The competition at the Alltech Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG) with endurance, eventing, para-dressage, and reining.
Endurance: Yamamah Flies to Hold for Sheikh Hamdan
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum (UAE) and the outstanding mare Yamamah (meaning “little dove” in Arabic) led from the start to finish to win the individual gold medal at a challenging endurance competition in to take over the world title from his father, Sheikh Mohammed.
European champion Jaume Punti Dachs (ESP) finished fifth on Novisaad d’Aqui and led home his jubilant compatriots Jordi Arboix Santacreu, sixth on Mystair des Aubus, and Cervera Sanchez-Arnedo (Strawblade, 22nd) to take team gold.
There was much national excitement when the home side, France, took silver, with Jean-Philippe Frances (Secret de Mon), Franck Laousse (Niky de la Fontaine), and Nicolas Ballarin (Lemir de Gargassan) finishing eighth, 11th and 12th respectively.
The Swiss trio of Barbara Lissarrague on Preume de Paute, fourth individually, Sonja Fritschi (Okkarina d’Alsace) and Andrea Amacher (Rustik d’Alsace) claimed team bronze.
The Netherlands’ Marijke Visser (NED) was visibly thrilled with second place and an individual silver medal with the UAE-owned grey gelding Laiza de Jalima. Qatari rider Abdulrahman Saad AS Al Sulaiteen and Koheilan Kincso also finished strongly to take bronze ahead of Swiss rider Barbara Lissarrague on Preume de Paute.
“This event really deserved the title of world Championships today,” said Brian Sheahan, chair of the FEI Endurance Committee, who praised the effectiveness of the new monitoring measures. “There has been a great deal of sportsmanship and cooperation with riders. It’s been a world-class event that I am proud to be associated with.”
A combination of changeable weather and footing conditions, plus stringent veterinary procedures whittled the field down to 38 finishers. Sheahan felt that the low number of finishers proved the veterinary protocols in place to protect horse welfare were working.
“This was a World Equestrian Games and the course was extremely technical and extremely challenging,” he said. “The weather made it even tougher and the vets were extremely careful to ensure that the horses were protected at all times, meaning that the number of finishers was unexpectedly low for a championship.”
A spectacular mass of 165 riders representing a record 47 nations set off in a damp, muddy dawn, but midday sun turning the slippery ground to a holding consistency, and the Ground Jury, which had already removed the minimum speed of 15 kilometres per hour for the first two loops, then reduced the minimum speed to 14 kph for loops three to five to allow horses to take their time on the course.
In another change to the format, this year there were five loops (of 37.9 kilometres, 35.8km, 32.8km, 33.1km and 20.4km) instead of six. Riders had to cope with ever-changing terrain, including wet sand on the second 35.8km loop which attracted crowds of spectators as horses traversed the beautiful bay of Mont St Michel.
The UAE team set the early pace and dominated the first two loops, but by the end of the third loop only Sheikh Hamdan and the quality Australian-bred bay mare Yamamah (formerly Kurrajong Concorde), winner of the Open European title last year with Sheikh Hamdan’s brother Sheikh Rashid, was left in the competition.
The duo, who won the 120km CEI at Windsor (GBR) in May, had the course to themselves for much of the day and returned home to massive cheers from a hugely supportive crowd.
Last year’s world number one in Endurance, Sabrina Arnold (GER), withdrew Saltan during the first loop and the defending World Equestrian Games champion, Spain’s Maria Alvarez Ponton, had a fall with Qualif du Poncelet on the third loop.
Isha Judd (URG) suffered a broken femur in a fall and Alberto Morales Morales (CRC) was taken to hospital complaining of neck pain after the first loop.
Tragically, the Costa Rican horse Dorado, ridden by Claudio Romero Chacon, died instantly of a head injury after striking a tree at the side of the track in a forested area on the first loop, shortly after 08.30. The rider was in a serious but stable condition this evening after undergoing surgery for fractures and internal injuries.
“Our thoughts are with Claudia Chacon Romero, who is currently recovering in hospital post-surgery, and the connections of Dorado, who sadly died in a tragic accident today,” Sheahan said. “Our hearts go out to them.”
There were no other serious injuries to any horses.
The medal ceremony will take place at 3:00 tomorrow during the break in the Grand Prix Freestyle Dressage in the d’Ornano Stadium in Caen.
Para-Dressage: First Para-Equestrian Team Spots Confirmed for Rio 2016
It was a dramatic day at the para-dressage competition, as a début rider took Grade II gold, and Great Britain, The Netherlands, and Germany booked the first three team spots on offer for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The Netherlands’ Rixt van der Horst, at her first major international competition, defeated Great Britain’s Natasha Baker in the Grade II individual test. Riding Uniek, she scored 72.457% to Baker’s 71.429% on Cabral. Canada’s Lauren Barwick took the bronze, riding Off to Paris to score 70.914%.
A tearful Van Der Horst told reporters, “I’m very happy that we did it all. I hoped to get a medal because that was possible, but I never expected gold. I can’t believe it. Now I have individual gold I’m going to really enjoy the freestyle.”
Equally emotional was Baker, Britain’s double London 2012 gold medalist and current European champion and favorite for the world title.
“Cabral did some of his best ever work," she said. "We had a plan to have a little bit more energy and he felt just incredible. We had some unfortunate spooks, but they’re horses and it’s just one of those things. For the freestyle I’m going to whack the music up so loud and just go for it. I’m even more driven to get it now.”
Beijing 2008 gold and silver Paralympic medalist Barwick was thrilled with her bronze: “We’ve been working really hard. She’s a very sensitive, challenging mare and we’ve just stuck in there with her and had a good time. A lot of people don’t know that Off to Paris is named in recognition of Own the Podium, the organization set up to support Canadian athletes.”
Double London 2012 gold medalist, Belgium's Michèle George, won the Grade IV individual competition with FBW Rainman on 74.881%, just over half of one per cent ahead of Great Britain’s defending world champion Sophie Wells, on Valerius with 74.333%. The Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar took bronze on Alphaville N.O.P., with 73.500%.
It was two out of four for Great Britain today. As well as picking up the team gold, Sophie Christiansen bounced back from her third place in the Grade Ia team test on Tuesday to take gold in the Individual test. Riding Janeiro 6 she scored 77.565% with Italy’s Sara Morganti, riding Royal Delight, on 76.478%. London 2012 silver and bronze medalist, Singapore’s Laurentia Tan, on Ruben James 2, took the bronze with 75.087%.
Christiansen said, “I feel amazing. I teared up a bit in the national anthem. Today meant a lot to me because I had to come back and fight for the gold medal in a way that I haven’t done recently at least. It made it all a bit more special.”
Great Britain maintained its unbeaten run in the team competition comfortably taking the gold ahead of The Netherlands and Germany. The British team scored 456.024, The Netherlands 436.941, and Germany 432.510.
Chef D’Equipe for Great Britain, David Hunter, said, “We came here with the intention of securing first, second or third to qualify for Rio, and got the gold with a large percentage to spare. The whole team and their back-up have worked hard, and everything has gone very smoothly with a great spirit. I'm over the moon. I couldn’t be prouder of the team. This is a good position to move on from, and start concentrating on Rio.”
The Netherlands set out their stall early in the week, saying that they had come for a place in Rio. Their Chef D’Equipe Joyce Heuitink said, “I cried because I was so proud of all the riders.”
Germany’s Chef D’Equipe Britta Bando said, “I have a lot of young riders and new horses in my team, and we’ll get the second place next time! Now we can plan for Rio.”
Tomorrow is the final day of this enthralling competition, when freestyle medals decided across all grades. The action kicks of at 9:00 in Normandy.
Eventing: Chilli Morning and Fox-Pitt Turn up the Heat
William Fox-Pitt (GBR) has given the British team a massive morale boost after the first day of the eventing competition, where the dressage phase is taking place below the chateau at Haras du Pin deep in the Normandy countryside.
Fox-Pitt and the biddable stallion Chilli Morning scored the only sub-40 mark—a 37.5—to head defending champion Michael Jung (GER) and the mare FischerRocana FST by 3.2 penalties.
“Chilli is lovely to ride on the flat,” said Fox-Pitt, who was individual silver medalist and a member of the winning British team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 in Kentucky. “I’m relieved that we nailed it. That was his best test ever.”
Jung’s good score on the relatively inexperienced nine-year-old and Ingrid Klimke’s (GER) mark of 41.2 on another mare, FRH Escada JS, despite losing marks for a tense walk and early canter strike-off, puts Germany in the lead at this early stage.
“I’m very happy,” said Jung. “My horse was relaxed and didn’t make too many mistakes. She also concentrated. The arena wasn’t slippery, but horses were looking at the ground because of the rainwater in the arena.”
The New Zealand team is currently second, ahead of Great Britain and the United States, with one penalty covering the three nations.
Tim Price (NZL) is in individual fourth place on his Luhmühlen CCI4* winner Wesko with a mark of 42.0 and Sir Mark Todd (NZL), a team bronze medalist in 2010, is 10th on Leonidas ll on a score of 49.2.
“There was some clapping before I went into the arena and Leo was a bit distracted and made some mistakes," Todd said. "He isn’t used to this kind of atmosphere and the sloppy going.”
The 2006 world champion Zara Phillips (GBR) didn’t get the British team off to the start she would have liked and admitted to being annoyed with her score of 54.5 on High Kingdom, which leaves her in 21st place currently.
“He broke in the medium trot and my marks didn’t come back up after that,” she said. “He does nice work but he’s not a flash horse. However, he’s a real galloper and I’m hoping to bring some good feedback for the others when I go out first across country on Saturday. It’s a long way round and if it stays wet then the dressage scores won’t matter as much.”
Cédric Lyard (FRA) is best of the home side, in seventh place on Cadeau du Roi with a score of 47.3. “I’m really happy with my horse,” he commented. “Cadeau concentrated really well and was expressive. I wanted to get the best marks I possibly could for the French team and I feel that I achieved that.”
The British team is hoping that the wet weather will play to their strengths on Saturday’s cross country day, which riders of all nations anticipate will re-arrange the scoreboard.
"It’s a good track with plenty to jump," Fox-Pitt said. "It’s quite hilly and with the soft ground it’s going to be a serious test. We tend to get all these conditions in England and so it should be good for us here, but the effect of the course will be cumulative and may be hard to gauge.”
Jung described course designer Pierre Michelet’s (FRA) course as “a tough four-star because of the big fences and the hills,” while Todd added that going early in the day could turn out to be a lucky draw: “This is a big and long track, it’s hilly and it’s wet. It isn’t going to be a dressage competition.”
The complete results of today’s competition are available online.
Reining: Six qualify for Individual Final
Some 23 reining horse-and-rider combinations came back to the Parc des Expositions in Caen today for the second individual qualifying competition. The top 15 pairs after the first individual qualifier had already earned their ticket to the final which will be held on Saturday, Aug. 30.
Second last to go, Troy Heikes, representing the United States as an individual, walked in aboard Lil Gun Dunit (Colonels Lil Gun x Hollywood Baby Dunit). Riding the 8-year-old stallion, owned by Denise Bixler and Steve Tarani, Heikes was set on making it to the final and closed his run with a score of 220, the highest of the day.
“In the first qualifier we had a problem in his right circles,” Heikes said. “Today, though he felt really good, we also had one point lead penalty on that side. After that I knew we had to earn it back and he gave me all he had. Though I am not on the U.S. team, I am part of the squad and am really happy with the way my horse went. For me, getting my horse ready for an FEI event is all very new and it has been a great experience.”
Thanks to Heikes’ winning run today, the United States will have all their athletes competing for the individual FEI medals on Saturday.
Canadian Cody Sapergia riding Nu Chexomatic (Nu Chex To Cash x Tejons Texie Lena), owned by Jac Point Quarter Horses of Austria, set a high standard after scoring 219. He was fifth to ride and managed to put his opponents under pressure.
“Today my horse was much better than on the first day and, even though there are still a couple of things we need to fix, I am confident he will do well in the final,” a satisfied Sapergia explained.
Non-professional rider Josh Collins (GBR) posted the third highest score of the day (218). The 24-year-old rode Spook A Little (Smart Spook x Jessie Wright On) earning a spot in the final.
“Being able to represent my country here has been my dream and my goal since the beginning of the year,” he commented. “My horse was amazing today and I am very proud of being in the individual final.”
Also making their way to the prestigious competition, where the FEI individual medals will be awarded, are Stefano Ferri (ITA) and Rooster Nic on 217 as well as Paolo Koury Neto (BRA) with Don’t Whiz WRB and Romuald Poard (FRA) with Peppys Ruf who tied for fifth place on 216.5.
The complete results of today’s competition are available online.