The home team of Brazil dominated the medals at the Pan American Endurance Championships, July 20, taking away the individual gold and silver medals in the senior division, as well as the team gold medal in both the senior and young rider divisions.
Top endurance horses of the Southern Americas represented their countries in the FEI Pan Am Championships, held in Campinas, Brazil, 50 miles northeast of São Paulo.
Noticeably absent were competitors from North America—the United States and Canada. The U.S. planned to send representatives, but Steve Rojek, Valerie Kanavy, and Danielle McGunigal all withdrew due to horse-related issues, while a Brazilian rider needed the mount that Suzanne Hedgecock had arranged to lease for the competition.
U.S. Equestrian Fede-ration Endurance Director, Vonita Bowers, stated, “While the USEF was prepared to send support staff and to award athlete grants to the team, the team for the Pan American Championship was not fully funded.
“In looking forward to the World Championship in Malaysia in late 2008, the committee felt that our strongest competition would be at the European Championships. Therefore, we should prepare by riding against those teams. In addition, we will be sending staff to the Malaysian World Championship Test Event in November. The organizing committee is accepting riders to that event by invitation of the organizing committee only. The USEF will send a chef d’equipe and a veterinarian to help the U.S. riders who are there by invitation.
“Another factor that may have negatively affected the level of interest in the Pan American Championships this year is that the course is 75 miles, rather than 100. The U.S. has continually expressed their strong conviction that the true test of endurance is a 100-mile course and that championships should be 100 miles. We are hopeful that the U.S. will be competing in the Pan American Championships once again in 2009.”
A Tough Home Team
Regardless of the smaller field, the flat course was expected to be fast, and the competition fierce. Uruguay, the small Latin country in between Brazil and Argentina, has a long history of raising hardy horses, and Uruguay had sent some of their best horses and riders.
Argentina was not to be outdone and had sent horses for the five-day road trip. Knowing that the host team always has the advantage of closer proximity to the ride and less travel time for horses, as well as ride-trail familiarity, it would be a sweeter victory to overcome the odds if these countries were to win.
The gold-medal winner, however, came as no surprise to Brazil, as Alexandre Leco (Leko) Razuck, together with the 9-year-old Anglo-Arabian, HDL Pantheon (Pantheus ATA—Balmiscar CBL) have shown themselves to be top competitors.
Four days of steady rain had left the ride site with plenty of standing water, but Razuck rated Pantheon well on a day that grew hotter as the afternoon progressed through a course of often-slippery footing that took out more than one of his competitors.
“I had problems before the ride with my horse,” said Razuck. “But he was fine for the ride and to win was a dream that came true. It was very special for me.”
This win was particularly sweet, as Ruzuck had an excellent chance at the gold medal on Pantheon at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, last year, but was stopped at the third loop for lameness.
Fellow Brazilian Maria Vitoria Lins Liberal claimed the individual silver, riding the 8-year-old, Filoteu Rach (Pompeu Rach—Fania Rach). The Brazilian lock on the individual medals was broken by Federico Garcia Piñeyrua of Uruguay, who rode to bronze on EO Dubut (LC Duzar—EO Jahra), raised from the Garcia family’s 6,000-acre breeding ranch, Haras El Oasis in Uruguay.
Twenty-seven senior riders left at 6:30 a.m. through a stunning field of sunflowers in a low ground mist that previewed a warm day.
Riders followed mostly flat trail of two-track roads of iron-rich red dirt that ran between private farms of
agriculture and cattle along the back roads of the outer Campinas countryside. It was also a race with the weather, as riders from Uruguay and Argentina, well below the Tropic of Capricorn, had horses accustomed to their winter climate. Their horses would benefit if the weather remained cool, as it had been for the past week. The horses from Brazil were more accustomed to the vagaries of the warmer Brazilian winter.
Relentless On The Way To The Win
The first 20-mile loop was a point-to-point trail that ended at the private equestrian center, Rancho Candida, also the sole vet check. Razuck and Pantheon set the pace at 13 miles per hour, and Pantheon
was first into Vet Gate 1 and the first horse to pulse down.
Uruguay’s Piñeyrua and fellow countrymen Pio Juan Miguel Olascoaga, riding Merlin, and Julio Machado, riding Viraz, pressed Razuck hard for the first two loops, but Pantheus out-pulsed their horses and was first out of the vet gate at each loop.
Liberal kept up the pressure from behind with Filoteu Rach and was riding in 10th place and only 6 minutes off the lead after the first loop, but could not match the fast recovery times of Pantheon. Another top rider, Brazil’s Marina Cesarino Steinbruch, riding Kirov da Barra, was traveling in 15th place at this point.
By the end of the second loop of 20 miles, the four lead contenders for the medals were Razuck, Piñeyrua, Oalascaga and Liberal, in that order. Now the Brazilians had the edge on the weather, as the sun came out, warming things up.
In from the third loop at the 60-mile mark, Brazil was showing its brio in the warm weather with the top five riders coming in first. Liberal arrived just ahead of Razuck, but Pantheon out-pulsed them and headed on to the fourth and final loop.
Cesarino Steinbruch had moved up to sixth position and was also showing excellent recoveries. Out onto the fourth loop of 17 miles, Razuck held the lead and finished in a ride time of 5:49:47 with an average speed of 13.48 miles per hour with total hold times of 110 minutes. Fifteen riders finished the senior division of the ride.
Pantheon’s excellent recovery rate during the ride also won him the Best Condition award. On hearing of his win at the prize-giving ceremony, Razuck leapt up and punched the air repeatedly with his fist, while his teammates yelled, “Brazil, Brazil, Brazil!” Pantheon was bred by Marcos Paolucci and is owned by Luiz Henrique Didier.
Brazil won the senior team gold with three of the four team members finishing: Razuck, Andre Vidiz riding Pyvha ATA (Ledhyr NA—Peruvya NA) and Lilian Bueno Garrubbo riding Judah Hem (Shariif—HB Amires).
Uruguay earned the silver team medal with only two members finishing, Federico Garcia Piñeyrua on EO Dubut and Pio Juan Miguel Olascoaga riding Merlin. Unfortunately, Argentina only finished one team member, Leslie Hagen, riding Cashmere.
Off-continent riders were represented by South African rider, Carmen Du Preez riding Nag Sharon Bez (*SW Bezatiw—Nag Hohanna Musc). The British rider, Dominique Freeman, living in San Jose, Calif., entered on her Brazilian horse, Roger HCF (AF Don Giovani—Allysia HCF). Freeman was cele-brating her 10th year of riding in Brazil, where she regularly competes.
The main venue for the ride was the event center of Fazenda Pau D’Alho, 18 minutes outside the thriving city of Campinas. Campinas is Portugese for “grass fields,” and it still maintains serious agriculture on its rolling hills in the production of coffee, sugarcane and cotton. It is also a major manufacturing and industrial center, sometimes referred to as the “Silicon Valley” of Brazil.
Paiz Scores For Guatemala In Young Riders Division
The FEI Young Riders Endurance Championship was well attended, with 21 riders from four South American countries competing, and it was held simultaneously on the Pan Am course for the same distance of 75 miles. This ride ended with only seven eliminations.
“It was a tough race, but this terrain and the altitude and the weather was very like Guatemala,” said individual gold-medal winner, Laura Paiz, 20, of Guatemala.
Paiz has ridden since she was 6, when she started riding show jumpers. When she found endurance, she said, “It fit my life.” However, her horse, Nico, lives in Uruguay, where he’s trained by Caferino Silva.
“My horse and the trainer are excellent,” Paiz continued. “No place in the world have I seen a better way of training horses than in Uruguay. The horses there are raised in the open fields and run free.” Paiz, who lives in Guatemala City, has completed three other rides on Nico.
Nico had excellent recoveries during the ride, which gave him the slight edge on silver-medal winner, Mariano Pita, from Argentina. Marcela Ott, bronze-medal winner from Uruguay riding Baraka Sharjah, finished the ride and discovered that she had missed some trail on the last loop.
Ott returned to the trail and still arrived in third place, 30 minutes after the winner and 2 minutes ahead of Brazil’s Patricia Taliberti, riding Jam Bob Fire (*NV Sure Fire—Von Herte Cayana, PSA), the oldest horse in the ride at 16.
All three medal-winning riders traded places during the ride, but Nico gained ground on Loop 4, catching Pita’s Chaval PP towards the end of the loop, then winning in a mad dash to the finish line.
All three Young Rider teams finished at least two riders for the team awards. The gold medal went to Brazil with all four riders finishing. Argentina claimed silver, with all four riders finishing, and the bronze medal went to Uruguay, who finished two riders.