Thursday, December 08, 2005

Aussie riders aim for top slot

AUSTRALIAN riders are leaving nothing for chance in their bid to finish at the top in the Gulf Energy World Junior Endurance Championship to be held in Bahrain from December 15 to 18 in Sakhir.

Comprising six riders, the Australian delegation was among the first teams to arrive in Bahrain and since then they have been training at the Endurance Village which is the venue of the event.

"We started our preparations for this championship three years ago by taking part in a number of events in Australia," said the team's chef de equipe Robin Van der Wegen.

Presently, there are 21 members from Australia in Bahrain and 14 more officials are expected to arrive on Tuesday, four days before the race.

Der Wegen said the team was recently announced and the selection was made according to the abilities and conditions of the horses as well as the riders.

"Our horses are very well qualified. They have completed many 160 kms races throughout the year and we are quite confident of them doing well here as well," he said.

However, Wegen confirmed that his priority is to see his young riders complete the race without injury problems and then if the horses are doing well on the day, they will work hard to be among the top.

"We are all satisfied with the environment here in Bahrain which is very important for all the teams taking part. The course here is very comfortable for riding and the organisers are providing enough safety measures for the participants," he said.

Brooke Warner, aged 14, is the team's youngest rider and she will be riding 10-year-old horse Piabun Ellalong.

Brooke, who started riding at the age of nine, is also one of the championship's best young riders. She won the 130-km Capricorn Cup in January while her last achievement was finishing top at the Tevis Cup in the US in July.

Interestingly, she won last year's Shahzada 400-km Memorial Ride for juniors which was held over five days in Australia.

Other team members are Kristie McGaffin, Sasha Laws-King, Amily Daw, Luke Annetts and his younger sister Jennifer.

Twenty-year-old rider Kristie qualified for this event after completing three 160-km races this year, including the Capricorn Cup in May when she finished third. Her last victory was in the FEI Ivory Rock Ride in 2003 which was over 160 kms.

Amily, also 20, competed in many races this year during which she won two events - the 80-km Muegonga Ride and the CEI Rosedale Ride which was over 120 kms.

Sasha, the second youngest team member aged 16, had her first international appearance four years ago in the 160-km Canberra Challenge junior which she won.

Her other remarkable results were winning the CEI Windorah Ride youth race in the same year and in the last three years she clinched a first-place finish in a 160-km race.

Luke booked his berth in the Bahrain event after completing three 160-km races last year. The most remarkable results for the 20-year-old rider since he began to ride in 2001 were winning both the FEI Kilkivan and Windorah rides which were over 160 kms.

His younger sister Jenny, 19, has gained quite a good experience in the last two years during which she participated in 13 races, including the 90-km CEI Lovers Ride which she won in the youth category.
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