By Sports Reporter/Doha
French legend Philippe Tomas leads a field of 58 in the 120km Endurance Championship at the CHI AL SHAQAB 2015 today. The only European contestant in the championship is a gold medal European team member and silver medallist at the 2012 World championship.
Riders from 10 countries will set off at Mesaieed. With a spectacular mass start at 5:00 in the morning they will set out for the Euros 200,000 prize money championship.
The first horse is expected at the finish line roughly six hours later.
One the most prominent athletes in the event will be the Frenchman Tomas, who has a reputation as a trainer and takes care of Al Shaqab horses when they are based in France. The world’s No.2 from Toulouse will ride Perlando HLM from Al Shaqab.
From his farm in Toulouse, Tomas runs a whole enterprise focused on long distance riding. For the European season, from March to October, he hosts around 100 horses from Al Shaqab stables, either for competition or breeding. The sport horses and their grooms go out for competition almost every weekend, either on 80 or 120 kilometre races, or do shorter stints, 40 or 60 kilometre for training towards the season in Qatar that opens in October again and lasts for the winter.
That way Tomas tours with a group of up to 15 horses every weekend, either riding one of his own horses or in company of the horses from Qatar. The Frenchman’s calendar has about 40 races per year.
Although Perlando HLM has spent two months on his farm, coming from Argentina and qualifying in Spain for larger events, Tomas will ride him for the first time. “If I can finish it will be a good result,” the only European contestant in the event, Tomas said.
“You don’t look towards the rider in front of you but you listen to your horse to make sure that it lasts until the finish line”, Tomas explains.
The CHI ride will be his fourth start in Qatar. The main difference between the Peninsula and France is the speed and the terrain. “At home the course will be twisty and going over various terrain. In Qatar it is straight forward and the terrain is always flat. Therefore the speed is a lot higher.”
Speaking about his foray into Endurance, Tomas said. “It is a great long term competition and yet it is more than just the technique of riding but about relationship with your horse.”
Qatar as a host nation has the largest contingent of the lot of 33 riders. Among them are Faleh Bughenaim, the feather weight rider who was No.1 in the FEI ranking 2014, Abdulrahman Saad al-Sulaiteen, the World Equestrian Games bronze medallist, Qatar’s first WEG medallist, Jassim al-Mohannadi, winner of the CEI at CHI AL SHAQAB 2014 and the 2011 Pan-Arab Games 10th ranked at age 14; and finally, the World’s No 5 Khalid Sanad al-Nuaimi.
Apart from the Qataris, eight experienced endurance riders are travelling from Saudi Arabia. India has six competitors and two will represent Syria. One rider each competes for Iran, Jordan, Nepal and Yemen are also in the fray.
The distance will be broken up in two loops of 30 kilometres each and three of 20. Veterinarians and officials will check at the “Vet Gate” on the condition of the horses and make sure they remain fit to continue.
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