Fronteira, Portugal: Auroro Torres Villalon led a one-two finish for Spanish riders in the CEI** Atoleiros endurance ride — the highlight of the second day of the Portuguese National Endurance Championships sponsored by the HH Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival.
Lola Gutierrez Parejo was second, while French contender Joel Marescassier took third aboard the 11-year-old chestnut mare Djitane De Leyre.
It was a first major success for Villalon, who partnered the seven-year-old chestnut gelding Nabuco, while Parejo continued her good form following a victory in the Puerto Real show in February.
UAE rider Aisha Darwish Al Romaithi showed the way in the first three loops but dropped to fifth place at the fourth vet gate, before being disqualified after an unfortunate fall.
Shathra Al Hajjaj, the most accomplished rider in the UAE team, retired after the third vet gate on veterinary grounds.
The other five UAE riders successfully completed the event, which was a major achievement considering it was their first international ride. They were competing against top internationational riders from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal in the 120-km event at the border riding centre in Fronteira, Portugal, on Sunday.
Joao Augus Noura, riding Argentine-bred stallion Repoker, was a comfortable winner of the CEN* ride. Anna Darbas aboard Bab Al Shams finished second, while Marco Sardo partnered Outsider to third.
“It was a challenging track,” said the UAE’s technical delegate Abdul Aziz Shaikh. “The course is partly a valley and the surface is uneven. In some areas there are stones, holes and muddy ground. The track is not very wide. The riders were racing through green valleys but the surface is not green at all. The underfoot conditions were very challenging. For the most part, the track was full of ups and downs and it was amazing to see the riders handling the course with a relatively high speed.”
The winners were crowned by Saqer Nasser Ahmad Al Raisi, the UAE Ambassador to Portugal, Adnan Sultan Al Nuaimi, Director of the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, and Lara Sawaya, Director of the Shaikh Mansour Festival and president of the Portuguese event, in the presence of other Arab and foreign ambassadors and officials.
Sawaya said: “We are truly proud of the great success which has been achieved by the festival at this very beginning, but this is only the start and there are more surprises and initiatives to come.”