The Horse, the Heath and Endurance
At the exciting endurance days in Casorate Sempione, during the celebration of its territory and the towns in its heath, Enrico Ercoli on Aiska won the 160 km CEI*** and the "best Condition" award. Last year, he had won the 122 km CEIOYJ* on the same mare. France reached the second place with Virginie Atger on Lozere de Courbons, while Carletto Bretoni on Zeton finished third.
The schedule for the first competition day included a 160 km CEI***, a 93 km CEI* and a National 80 km CEN**/B. Despite the unusual weather that had characterized this early springtime, the terrain did not cause major problems to the riders. The paths through the heath, sandy and not clayey, held better than everyone thought and the leaves that fell on the ground contributed to improve the safety of horses. 21 pairs - out of a total of 130 pairs that signed up for the two-day event - gathered at the start line of the 160 km CEI*** race, which consisted of six loops (four 31 km. ones and two 18 km ones) all of them starting and finishing in Campo San Giorgio, where the elegant vet gates were located. As in the previous edition, the organizers (Mr. Centinaio, Maestrello and Valentini) did their very best, even though there were some misgivings around the signage showing how to reach the track and on the track itself during the race. Perhaps a motorcyclist preceding the riders on the track could have avoided some perplexities around the scarce and insufficient signs, as it happens in other, better-organized countries. But let us move on. The sun shone from the start, when we met, among the others, the new world over-45s champion Gaetano Ambrosio on Assan the King, which appears to be in excellent form. Off they went. The riders took the 31 km orange loop, which led to Leonardo Da Vinci's Dykes on the Ticino River and to Cascina Costa, where the equipment of the horse support were positioned. Arriving at the first vet gate was a small group led by Alessandra Brunelli on Kaila de Tensonnives, a beautiful gray Arabian, followed by Carletto Bertoni, Salvatore Rossi, who would have to withdraw at the next gate due to lameness of his Don Pera, Enrico Ercoli, Jonny Scola with Hermes di Pegaso, the French Virginie Atger and all the others. The only one to be excluded at reinspection was the junior rider Marco Sardo, due to lameness of his Patmu. Shame. The second (blue) loop, 31 km long, led north towards Arsago Seprio and after the last support point at Ronco di Diana, returns to the Campo San Giorgio gates. The first to arrive was Alessandra Brunelli, followed by Enrico Ercoli, Carletto Bretoni and Gaetano Ambrosio, who was riding together with Virginie Atger. Six pairs had to withdraw due to lameness or metabolic problems. Things did not change after the third loop, once again the blue one of 31 km., when the first to cut the finish line was Gaetano Ambrosio followed by Brunelli and the leaders group, Ercoli, Bertoni and so on. Four pairs remained at the gates, including the well-known Jonny Scola on Hermes di Pegaso and Carletto Di Battista on Caapriati. The fourth loop, the 18 km green one was ahead of them, the one that led to Somma Lombarda and would be repeated as final loop. The places were mostly the same or slightly changed. Alessandra Brunelli came first, with Ercoli at the heels of her lovely gray mare, Kaila, then Virginie Atger with Carlo Bertoni and Gaetano Ambrosio and further back, about fifteen minutes later, Chiara Rosi, Chiara Marrana, Leonardo Bellacini, Martina Lui, Stefano Mori and Simona di Battista. The sun was shining again, but the terrain continued to be arduous. The fifth, 31 km loop (the orange one) confirmed that the leaders group was safely ahead of everyone else. However, slowly but surely Ercoli started to catch up, managing to overtake them and to be the first to cross the finish line, followed by the others just a few minutes behind. He was followed by the French rider, then Carletto Bertoni, Alessandra Brunelli, Gaetano Ambrosio and, further back, the usual Rosi, Marrama, Bellacini, Lui, Mori and Di Battista. Gaetano Ambrosio had to withdraw from the final loop, the 18 km green one, due to lameness of his Assang the King and so did Sandro Pastorelli with his gray Jolly Jumper. Enrico Ercoli was in full swing and his followers tried to catch up with him but the game was up. It was a great performance for the young rider from Umbria, who crossed the finish line alone at an average final speed of 17.650 kmph. Virginie Atger came in second, 11 minutes later, followed by Carletto Bertoni who overtook Alessandra Brunelli at the finish line. Leonardo Bellacini was fifth and performed very well, the talented Martina Lui followed suit, and then Stefano Mori, Simona Di Battista. Chiara Marrama was the last one, due to her excellent Magic Start giving up just before the end. In the group with Bellacini was also Chiara Rosi, but her Cherra was out due to lameness. Shame. A compelling competition, thanks to the pursuers as well as those who had to defend themselves. The 93 km CEI* and the national 80 km CEN**/B, with 22 and 14 pairs at the start line respectively, which shared the track with the main race, were won by the Argentinean Domingo Andres Cordoba with Fleur d'Orient, who rode at an average of 18.300 kmph, crossed the finish line alone and was awarded the "best condition", and by Donatella Accampi on Batir, 16.906 kmph on average and "best condition". The former beat Alessandro Lattanzio on Pivohina and Paolo Luigi Ronchail riding Origan de Ghazal, whereas the latter crossed the finish line ahead of Elena Guarnieri on Casanova GS and Manuel Bontempi on TS Carlotta.
The program for the second day of "The Horse, the Heath" included other races involving 82 pairs: a Regional 62 km CEN*/R, a race for Novices and one for Non-Competing Novices, both 31 km long. Unfortunately, an incessant rain made the races even more difficult than the day before, but the riders and the assistants of this fascinating yet tough sport were not disheartened and everything went well in the end. In the 62 km Regional race, the winner with a score of 13.988 was Domingo Andres Cordoba (Argentina), this time on Filemon. He was followed by Giovanni Vezzosi (13.12432) who was riding S.C. Alaska and Antonio Barbieri on Albanese Bosana (12.1291622).The best condition was awarded to the fourth best rider, Moira Colombo on Arake Bel. The two races for novices were won by Paolo Zulian on le Cygne (12.370 points) followed by Marco Metalli with Ajadi (11.428) and Fernanda Tamberlani with Sham by Mirte (11.411), which was awarded the "best condition". The 31 km race for Non-competing Novices was won by Barbara Pierre on Darkness Linx (9.94000 points) followed by Leonardo Salvatore on SA Mondigo (9.51190) and Pietro de Domenico on Estefan (8.8800).
We reached Enrico Ercoli to ask his opinion on this 160 km race which, if he did not dominate it, was within his grasp throughout, like a true champion he proved to be when he was still a Young Rider. Let us hear from him.
"While I am still on cloud nine for the result achieved last Saturday, I would like to start by saying that it was one of the best victories for me. Having such a debut in my first senior year and with a mare at her first 160 km race filled me with joy! We knew we had trained the mare very well, but as it was a new race for both Aiska and me, I cannot deny that I was a little apprehensive before the start. For the first four loops, we simply rode with the leaders group, keeping a regular pace at around 17 kmph, and the mare recovered regularly, passed the checks easily and her trot was perfect. So, shortly before starting for the fifth loop (the 31 km one, editor's note), my assistance and I decided that it was time to attack. This time, my assistance included two important names for endurance, Patrizia Giacchero and Nando Torre. At about 10 km from the end of the loop, I asked my mare to increase the gait considerably, without worrying about who would follow us. This way, at the vet gate I managed to gain enough time to start the last loop in first position. It was probably because I felt my mare very well, or that a fiercely competitive Virginie Atger started a minute and a half behind me, but in the last loop of 18 km Aiska and I literally flew together, constantly increasing our advantage and recording an average speed of 29 kmph at the first assistance point. This allowed us to manage the distance until the finish, with an average speed for the loop of 24.5 kmph. To confirm the excellent physical condition of my mare, on Saturday night we were honored also with the best condition award.
Two days have passed since the Casorate Sempione race, and on Monday afternoon, when the vet arrived at the stud to check the horse, Aiska galloped towards us from the field with her tail high up, the big ears straight up and her lively eyes! She is truly exceptional and the vet confirmed her excellent condition after the race, as we were expecting! But apart from her potential and her competitiveness, we are very fond of this bay mare, which was born here, at home, 11 years ago and since then Aiska (we call her Nandjna) has grown up with us. Her dam Ingrid gave us four other brothers, which are Nives Baia, Schadja, Heaghls and Greta, according to their birth date. The debut in a long race for Aiska was in 2005 at the Italian Young Riders Championship in Castiglione del Lago, where she finished in 7th place with Andrea Mancanelli. The following year, in 2006, she won the silver medal at the Italian Young Riders Championship ridden by Josè Cianfrocca in Pratoni del Vivaro. In August of the same year, we decided to take her to the World Young Horse Championship in Compiegne. I rode with her and we finished in fourteenth place!! Last year I managed to lead her to victory at the junior CEIO here in Casorate Sempione. This year, finally, she did the great quality jump and moved up to the higher category, where I believe I can confidently say that she obtained an excellent victory. As I said before, Aiska has four younger brother. In March, one of them, a 6-year-old chestnut stallion called Heaghls completed his first 90 km race and finished 5th. In short, we can say that many of our horses are related to the lovely Ingrid, at least from maternal side. What I would like to say is that in order to achieve certain results you need to have a good basis. But it is only thanks to the experience gained over these years and thanks to the collaboration with skilled and reliable professionals that has led us to develop a training method and a competition technique which has taken us far and will make us reach the top!".
One of the key ingredients for endurance is enthusiasm, something that Enrico Ercoli is certainly not lacking.