French rider Aurelien Rocchia aboard Secret de Mon Coeur scooped individual gold, ahead of Spain's Silvia Yebra Altimiras with Espoir de Bozouls, and Laurent Mosti (FRA) took bronze on Doria de Jansavis at the FEI World Endurance Championships for Young Horses in Italy last weekend.
On Saturday 28th September, 67 horses crossed the start line at 6.30am to contest this Championships where just individual honours were at stake. It was a strong field, with representatives from 13 nations. Home nation Italy fielded the largest number of starters with 22 rider and horse combinations, with France – fresh with medal success following their team gold at the FEI Open European Endurance Championships just two weeks ago – not far behind with 18 starters. They were joined by 27 combinations from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Oman, Slovakia, Sweden and the UAE.
The competition venue was based in Valeggio Sul Mincio, a small Italian commune in the region of Vaneto, approximately 120km west of Venice. The course was 120km long, made up of 3 loops, one of which was repeated making 4 loops in total.
Right from the start, the front runners set a hard pace over the initial 40km loop, but as the day panned out, it became apparent that those athletes opting for a slightly steadier cruising speed would come out on top. The leaders covered the initial loop at just over 20kph and the top five at this first vet gate had representatives from the UAE, France, Italy and Spain. The second loop was much shorter, measuring just 22.5km, and the speed remained consistent into vet gate 2. With the top 15 athletes within 20 minutes of the leader it was very much an open race at this stage.
Loop 3 proved to be the biggest challenge of the day. Here, the distance stepped up to 35km and it became apparent that those combinations travelling at the higher speeds were starting to feel the tough questions posed by this deceiving track. In total, 16 horses were judged unfit to continue at this final vet gate, allowing those that had saved enough petrol in the tank to really come into their own. The leading rider out on to the last loop of just 22.5km, a repeat of the earlier loop 2, had an advantage of just over 19 minutes ahead of 2nd placed Endurance great Laurent Mosti (FRA) onboard the impressive grey mare Doria de Jansavis. However, with 7 combinations leaving within 5 minutes of Mosti to cover the final stages, the competition was fierce.
In the end, the UAE’s Sheikh Khalifa bin Mohammed al Hamed stopped his horse during the final loop allowing those initially trailing by nearly 20 minutes to take the lead. French rider Aurelien Rocchia with his gelding Secret de Mon Coeur put in a storming final loop to take gold in a thrilling sprint finish alongside Spaniard Silvia Yebra Altimiras riding the French bred chestnut gelding Espoir de Bozouls. Mosti took bronze, crossing the line just 2 seconds behind but his mare was later awarded the prestigious Best Condition accolade.
Fourth place went to another French rider, Emilie Lambert. Her striking mare Birmany Font Noire was one of the quickest presenting horses all day, averaging just 1 minute 49 seconds at each vet gate. Fifth place saw another sprint finish, this time between Sweden's Maria Hagman Eriksson, French rider Lauriane Recoules and Ali Hassan Al Farsi of Oman. The bay gelding Al Tayar ridden by Hagman Eriksson won the sprint and in doing so secured Sweden's best finish at a Championship for many years.
In all, over 50% of the participants completed successfully with nearly all Federations entered having a successful completion. Ian Williams, FEI Director for Endurance was exceedingly pleased with the Championships. “This testing event posed many a question of these young horses and it was those that were brought gradually through the field, stepping up in the placings as the day progressed, that were able to show their true class in the end”, he explained. “What an exciting future Endurance has with young horses of such calibre”.
Gold: Aurelien Rocchia (FRA) with Secret de Mon Coeur (06:10:37, 19.427kph)
Silver: Silvia Yebra Altimiras (ESP) with Espoir de Bozouls (06:10:38, 19.426kph)
Bronze: Laurent Mosti (FRA) with Doria de Jansavis (06:10:40, 19.424kph)