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Crazy Race and the Spanish Riders,
Conquistadors in Castelsagrat
Castelsagrat - M7 Festival 2019, June 7 - 9


David Abad Guerra and Nadin Fay

These 3 days of races were full of surprises and intense sport. Due to a very good organisation, riders ran on various and technical tracks among beautiful landscapes. The 2 flagship races were the 2* (120km) and the 3* (160km).

Friday 05 :30 AM : Real things begin!
Well-known for being difficult, the 3* race kept its promises. From sadness to tears of joy, flashback on a race full of twists. In the early mornig, 45 couples crossed the start lines for 6 loops and 160km, under a threatening weather. Windy tracks and few raindrops did not helped the riders. Furthermore, this 3* race was a qualification race for the French riders, for the Endurance European Championships in Euston Park.

The french trainer, Jean-Michel Grimal, gave new directive : gallop fast during the first 10 km, in order to make a better start and not being pulled away by the other competitors.

Untill the 4th loop, the best riders kept the speed, with a top group wich was clearing gradually. 3 couples have got a gap, leaving the others far behind. The 5th loop was the decisive loop. Christophe Nogueira – Piros de Fontanel (France) and the Omani rider Ahmed Salim Mohamed al Hamdani – Veinard Secondo were taking the lead while they made an error on the track at the last crew point.

As the loop was not fully ran, the jury had no choice but downgrade the 2 riders, nevertheless allowing them to finish their course « overtaking » the 3 missing kilometers, during the final loop. Thus, the 2 riders kept their qualification on this distance.

Piros de Fontanel made an exemplary race showing a great physical fitness.

At the start of the 6th loop, the French couple Roman Lafaure – Valdez Cabirat ranked first on paper. But …


Roman Lafaure and Valdez Cabirat

It was without counting on the Spanish troublemakers David Abad Guerra – Nadin Fay who tumbled down on the French couples arriving at the lake, and then overtook him and took the lead up to the end. Roman Lafaure wisely decided to let the Spanish rider going ahead: « Valdez was not as usual ».

David Abad Guerra finished the race in 08 :51 :57 at an average speed of 18.047 km/hour, just 1:19mn ahead of Roman Lafaure ( 08 :53 :19 km/h, av.speed = 18.002 km/h)

The big surprise in this race comes from the French rider Servann Le Bitoux with her sensitive mare Sanitza Armor. 19th at the arrival of the 1st loop, they finished 3rd, reaching a 1st podium on 160km. Sanitza Armor easily lasted the distance and the technical difficulties : «the only time, I pushed her was at the finish line ! ». And this effort has payed off as the couple crossed the finish line by a nose.

This is a nice story when one knows that this mare was to be sent to the slaughterhouse because she was « unmanageable ». Sanitza was fortunate to meet the Le Bitoux family.

While she went with the leading group, Virginie Atger and RAS Payador had to ease up et finaly finished 6th after a finish sprint with the Omani Al Hamdani.

David very happy and Roman a bit disappointed.
The Spanish rider is obviously happy, grabbing its first podium and its fisrt 160 with Nadin Fay, at a speed of 18.1km/hour. « My fiancée trains my horse, mainly walking in the mountain ». David is a farrier and do not have much time to train himself. Hoping for being in the top 10, « but looking at the list of competitors, it was a long shot ! » David said, he took Jordi Arbou Santacreu’s advices : go slow and wait.

If Roman is happy with this first podium for Valdez cabirat on a 160km race, he has not the same feeling about his race : « I followed the leading group and I went too quickly ». His goal is half reached : he was chasing the top 5.

CEI2* : Another victory for Spain !
After a victory in the 160km race, a 1st, 3rd and 6th place on the CEI1* on Saturday, who won the CEI2* on Sunday : Spain again !

It is the very young Marc Vila Sabata (aged 16 !), with TBO Señora Mia, who held the pole position on the third loop and did not let it go. He completed the race in 05 :53 :05 at an average speed of 20.392 km/h.

The French César Donais and Jedran did everything to catch the Spanish, but had to cede him 9’’ and finally took the 2nd place. « I run the first two loops with the Spanish, but Jedran had hard time to recover, although he felt comfortable on the track. I had to slow down. » Then the couple set up on Arthur Desprez- Nabat des Pins (3rd place of this race), who knows full well the Castelsagrat tracks. Jedran (8 years old), fulfils hopes his rider pins on him : « he is a pro ! He eats, he pees, he has a good mind. Jedran has not showed yet all what he is capable of ! ».

To the contrary of Jedran, Nabat des Pins had difficulty climbing the mythical laundry hill, located at the end of the race.


Marc Vila Sabata with TBO Señora Mia

Lilou Tomas Arnaud put France place back!
She was awaited on the CEIYJ2* ; she was there. 17th in the first phase, then 2nd, Lilou and Stella du Claux claimed top spot in the 3rd loop and stayed there. They confirm their strong abilities. They run the 120km of the race in 6 :10 :26 at an average speed of 19.437 km/hour.

This race showed the « Girl Power » as the girls scored a top 10 results in this race, and only French riders !

The first foreign young rider finished 12th is Saif Juma Mohamed Khamis Beljafla – Bonito Cabirat from U.A.E, and the first guy is from France too and finished 11th is  Armand Ferrere – Sham’s al Galahad.


Philippe Tomas and Lilou Tomas Arnaud

M7 – Castelsagrat: an ongoing partnership
Mohammed al Suboosi, M7 manager confirmed that the partnership initiated last year with the organizing committee will be extented to 2020 … but a bigger one. M7 really appreciate this partnership as the collaboration with the organizers is very smooth and leads to a super event.

M7 choose Castelsagrat because it is a real challenge for the both U.A.E riders and horses. The goal is that more and more U.A.E riders can compete in Castelsagrat.

« It is a challenge as it is difficult to make speed here. It’s not easy ! » Mohammed said.

Of course, Castelsagrat is very different from U.A.E or other European races, as there is a lot of level crossings. But many things will change as M7 just bought barnes near Toulouse : « France is the country of endurance. Sheikh Mohammed (editor’s note : Sheikh Mohammed by Rashid al Maktoum – owner of M7), thinks the best way to start a horse is to do it here ». Riders and horse will take the ability to cope with the sleepest slopes now : «people and horses will be ready earlier to prepare the race » added the manager.


Mrs Francine Fillastre giving a present to Mohammed Al Suboosi (M7 manager)

And Mohammed dreams big for Castelsagrat : « One day, there will be an emirates team in Castelsagrat. I dream that we can organize a world cup. The organization is very good and responsible. The team is ready and all spaces are ok. ».

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum shows « the right things » to Mohammed : there is a mutual trust between them.

When we ask Mohammed if he is happy with this partnership, the reponse he makes without the slightest hesitation is: «if people are happy, I am happy!».

Let’s wait and see for the next edition …
Text and photos : Anne Jonchery


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