Abu Dhabi: Fifteen-year-old schoolboy Martin Stirling led a ‘Latin Delight' as riders from South America turned in a dominant display to stun favourites UAE in the World Junior and Young Riders Endurance Championship here yesterday.
Stirling won the individual gold and led his Uruguay team to gold to complete a perfect double while team mate Oriana Ricca finished third, Argentina's Manuela Basombrio was fourth, Uruguayan Maria Pereira seventh and Rafaela Darquea from Ecuador next to him to complete a memorable championship for Latin America.
It was heartbreak for the UAE's Shaikh Khalifa Bin Mohammad Al Hamad, who led in the third and fourth stage but his horse Ultimo, despite a three-minute lead going out into the final loop of 16kms, could only manage a fifth place.
Stirling, on Vendaval, did well to first overtake the UAE rider and from then on keep his nine-year-old bay gelding in front despite a late challenge from Australian Allix Jones.
Stirling's team mate Ricca finished third on Hunter Toro and with Maria Pereira in seventh the Uruguayans added the team gold to the individual gold.
With 77 riders from 29 countries starting at 6.30am in the five-loop race, the UAE riders looked to be in good positions midway through the 120km event. But after Ali Ganem Al Merri's exit in the second loop, Mohammad Saeed Al Faresi also went the same way in the third loop.
But Shaikh Khalifa and Khalifa Ganem Mohammad Al Merri on Little Joe Fox looked in contention for a medal until the final 16kms. While Al Merri's horse went lame before starting out on the final stage, Shaikh Khalifa said his horse behaved otherwise in the final loop. "It was a very strange ride for us and a very difficult one. I had a good chance but my horse was not up to it in the final loop," he said.
Stirling and Vendaval completed the 120km ride in 5hrs 18 mins 51 seconds with an average speed of 22.58km/h while the Australian Jones was just 12 secs behind the winner.
In the team event Uruguay took the gold while European endurance powerhouse France snatched the silver and Australia finished with the bronze.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince, and Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, attended the ride.
- 1. Martin Stirling-Uruguay-(Vendaval)-5hrs 18 mins 51 secs
- 2. Allix Jones-Australia-(Castlebar Moonlight) 5:19.03;
- 3. Oriana Ricca-Uruguay-(Hunter Toro) 5:35.25;
- 4. Manuela Basombrio-Argentina-(Tio Langa) 5:36.37;
- 5. Shaikh Khalifa Bin Mohammad Al Hamad -UAE-(Ultimo) 5:37.05;
- 6. Kelsey Russel-USA-(Gold Raven) 5:37.06;
- 7. Maria Pereira-Uruguay-(Mi Jade) 5:41.37;
- 8. Rafaela Darquea-Ecuador-(Tequila) 5:44.04;
- 9. Adil Saeed Abdullah Al Beloushi-Oman-(Schalla Face) 5:45.07;
- 10. Elisabeth Hardy-Belgium-(Khersiko Du Courtisot) 5:48.38