During the Longines FEI World Endurance Championships, the x-bionic® sphere in Šamorín resembled the summit of European leaders in Bratislava. The state security services were in action due to the presence of prominent participants and visitors from Arabic countries. On Saturday at 6:00 in the morning, 133 riders and horses from 45 countries and five continents stood under the Danube dam, getting ready for the start. 23 countries took part in the teams’ competition. Slovakia was represented by five riders from Napoli Šamorín riding club. The starting list included some of the most successful riders and teams from the World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy. Favourites of the competition were mainly riders from the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Bahrein, and France. Riders and their horses enjoyed relatively favourable weather with a temperature between 20 and 25 degrees. The morning sky was cloudy with occasional showers. Around midday, the sun started shining and the wind stopped blowing for a while.
Right after the beginning of the race, a strong group of approximately 20 riders formed at the front, demonstrating that they came to Šamorín with a clear purpose. After 18 km at the turn near Slovnaft in Bratislava, the group was riding 27 km/h, with a 7-minute advantage over the second group of riders. Four female Slovak riders, Petra Hubačová with gelding Ocaz, Lucia Supeková with gelding Aquiles, Michaela Supeková with mare Sagvar de Garbi, and Simona Zelmanová with mare Ras Antorcha, were riding 20km/h, with a loss of approximately 14 minutes behind the leading group. The leader of the Slovak team, Mario Hoffman with gelding Sonic de Vilaformiu, had been part of the leading group from the beginning; however, he fell behind after a fall, and finished 22nd in the first round, which was 40 km long. He started the second round (35 km) with a loss of nine minutes behind the leading competitors, who were mainly riders from the United Arab Emirates, led by defending champion sheik Hamdan bin Mohamad Al Maktoum with Ramaah, sheik Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum with mare Ajayeb and Spanish riders with the two-time world champion, Maria Alvarez Ponton at the front. While passing through the wetlands, the pace slowed down and the resulting speed of the leading riders after the first round was approximately 24 km/h. Our representative, Simona Zelmanová (18,850 km/h) started the second round as the 82nd, Lucia Supeková 86th, and Petra Hubačová 90th and Michaela Supeková 97th. Thirteen riders retired early from the competition after the first round.
The track of the second round ran in the opposite direction, to Báč, and then through field roads through fields and vineyards in the vicinity of Šamorín. It occasionally crossed frequent roads, and also included the park in Šamorín, which was a big attraction for visitors. The leading group of 20 riders fell apart. The leading riders of the main 11-member group, which held a pace just under 24 km/h, were sheik Hamdan, sheik Rashid, and Jaume Punti Dachs. Other groups were falling behind by two to five minutes. Mario Hoffmann arrived to the finish line of the second round with a loss of ten minutes. However, due to the complications caused by the fall during the first round, he decided to retire from the competition, being the 18th at the time. Seventeen riders quit the competition after the second round, including one of the favourites – Maria Alvarez Ponton. Lucia Supeková and her daughter Michaela could not enter the third round, because their horses were limping.
In the third round, the leading group sped up mildly and the number of riders decreased to seven. Four of these riders were representing the United Arab Emirates, two riders were from Bahrain, and one from Uruguay. The Bahraini horse of Ali Abdulla Musafara could not keep up with the faster pace and finished the race at a veterinary control due to metabolic disorders. Another 23 riders and horses did not make it to the penultimate round, including Simona Zelmanová. Petra Hubačová with Ocaz moved to the preliminary 67th place.
After completing 110 km, the leading sextet slowed down in the fourth round (30 km). Five kilometres before the finish line, sheik Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum’s mare Ajayeb suffered an irreparable injury to her right front leg, but other horses from the leading group also had health problems before entering the veterinary control. Sheik Hamdan bin Mohamed Al Maktoum did not continue to the final round, because his horse was limping. Jaume Punti Dachs and Angel Soy Coll from Spain, and sheik Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa from Bahrein managed to get into the leading group of seven riders. 27 horses retired from the competition before the start of the final round.
Jonatan Iriarte Rivera from Uruguay was the first rider to enter the 20 km long final round with an advantage of 1 minute 38 seconds. Ahmed Saif Al Mozroui was the second and managed to lower the first rider’s advantage by half a minute at the turn next to Kyselica village. The Uruguayan rider and his struggling mare LG Munerah could not keep up with their high pace (29,46 km/h). Ahmed Saif Al Mozroui riding Nopoli del Ma arrived to the finish line of the competition as the first, with a comfortable advantage of four minutes. The Uruguayan rider with his exhausted mare finished second, a minute and half before the third rider, who had to fight hard for the bronze medal in the final part of the track. Ghanim Abdulla Al Marri from the United Arab Emirates and his horse Quran el Ulm finished third, with an only one-second advantage over their rival. The infamous fourth place went to the current European Champion Jaume Punti Dachs and his horse Twyst Maison Blanche.
The only thing left to do was pass the final veterinary check. The first and second horses were eliminated for limping and after the third horse in the finish line did not pass the veterinary check due to metabolic disorders, the World Champion 2016 title went to Jaume Punti Dachs, with an average speed of 23,605 km/h. “It is very emotional. I have a young horse, but he was really good on the track. I am glad that he did this well. I dedicate my victory to my wife and family, who support me. It’s fantastic that we finished first as a team as well,” said the new World Champion. The second place, after the smashing finish (the fastest at the final 20 km) went to his team colleague, Alex Luque Moral riding Calandria PH, with a time difference of 50 seconds. The bronze medal went to sheik Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa from Bahrain with Waterlea Dawn Treader with a loss of 3 minutes 5 seconds behind the winner. Spain managed to defend their victory from the World Equestrian Games of 2014 and won the World Champion title (Jaume Punti Dachs, Alex Luque Moral, and Angel Soy Coll) with an advantage of almost three hours over France. The Netherlands finished third, with only under seven minutes behind the silver stand. The veterinary commission chose mare Calandria PH as the winner of the “best condition” category, who was ridden by Spanish rider Alex Luque Moral. Only 47 riders completed the demanding competition (33,85%). Petra Hubačová with Ocaz was the only rider from the Slovak team who completed the competition, with an average speed of 17,203 km/h, finishing 39th. “I am unbelievably happy. It’s a great success for me and Ocaz. I had no doubts that we would do it. It was incredibly demanding, but our efforts have paid off. Ocaz is the best horse in the world, I am very proud of him,” said Petra Hubačová.