The UAE’s Saif Ahmed Al Mozroui has won individual gold on Descardo in the 120km FEI World Endurance Championships for Young Horses, held in Italy at the weekend.
Two Spanish riders, Alex Luque Moral and Jordi Pons Serra, took home the individual silver and bronze medals at the event for seven-year-old horses at Valeggio Sul Mincio.
Descardo, a Portuguese-bred grey Arabian gelding (California x Tosca / Caim), is owned by MRM Stables in the UAE.
The four-loop course wound its way through the rolling countryside typical of the province of Verona, onto the shores of Lake Garda and into the stunning public park Parco Giardino Sigurta.
Tactical riding and good horse management was key on this technical course, which saw 40% of the athletes – 29 combinations – complete from nine nations including Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and the UAE. The top ten horses were all bred in Europe, with half of these bred in France.
The event attracted a field of 73 combinations from across Europe as well as the UAE, Turkey and Kuwait.
The competitors left the venue at 7am on Saturday morning and tackled the first loop of 38km. Consistency and quick presentation times were to prove influential throughout the day and vet gate 1 was no exception. A small group had made headway in the first section, comprising mainly representatives from the UAE but including Annelie Erikssen (SWE) and Luque Moral. Presentation times of under two minutes allowed Al Mazroui, Saif Salem Al Farasi (UAE) and Erikssen to continue their lead on to loop 2.
The second loop was slightly shorter at 33km, but proved too much for Erikssen on Penelope Del Ma, and the pair retired at the second vet gate. A slow presentation time from Al Farasi resulted in him slipping behind Luque Moral with his mare Surena MB, but only by eight seconds. Luque Mural, just back from winning team gold and narrowly missing out on an individual medal at the FEI European Endurance Championships in Slovakia just two weeks ago, was out to better his fourth place and come home with individual honours this time.
Al Mazroui left on the third 26.5km loop with a 3.5 minute lead and put in the fastest loop of the day, extending his lead by another two minutes at the final vet gate. This last check before the final loop was a real game changer for so many, with no less than 16 combinations having their chances dashed and being judged not fit to continue at this tantalisingly close stage.
While it looked like it would be an exceedingly tight last loop between Al Farasi and Moral, as both left within 10 seconds of one another, Al Farasi cruised home over the final 22.5km loop with Descardo.
Moral was ecstatic to secure his second FEI Championship medal within two weeks. Ten minutes later, bronze was snapped up by compatriot Pons Serra and his grey mare Cata de Montfluq, after they had worked their way up the leaderboard from seventh at the first vet gate.
Reporting: Berry Pattison
Gold Saif Ahmed Al Mozroui (UAE) with Descardo: 22.02kph/05:26:56
Silver Alex Luque Moral (ESP) with Surena MB: 21.34kph/05:37:21
Bronze Jordi Pons Serra (ESP) with Cata de Montfluq: 20.60kph/05:49:34