Juan José takes title for Mexico at thrilling FEI Jumping Children’s Classics Final 2021
By Louise Parkes
With the only double-clear performance in the final competition, Juan José Salinas Rodriguez clinched an emphatic victory for the host nation yesterday at the FEI Jumping Children’s Classics Final 2021 in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Riding the brilliant little nine-year-old grey mare Gabbana M, the 14-year-old rider threw down a strong target in the nine-horse jump-off against the clock and couldn’t be caught. But it wasn’t for lack of trying by the remaining contenders, with runner-up, Guatemala’s José Daniel Montenegro Ortíz, posting a quicker time but denied the win when the very last fence hit the floor in the thrilling final showdown.
Brazil’s Giullia Atrasas Bolson finished third ahead of Mexico’s Alessandro Neumann Priess while Iran’s Bardia Fereidonian slotted into fifth and South Africa’s Ana van Coller claimed sixth place.
A total of 30 competitors from 10 countries – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador,
Guatemala, Iran, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe – lined out in the First Qualifier staged last Thursday in which Guatemala’s José Daniel Montenegro Ortíz came out on top with the 16-year-old mare Squeakie.
This Final presents a real challenge to all competitors who have qualified through competitions staged all around the world because they ride borrowed horses. The ability of the young athletes to quickly adapt to a completely unfamiliar mount plays a significant role in their success, and José Daniel quickly established an excellent rapport with his horse who galloped home clear in 55.06 seconds to take the first honours of the week.
Under the watchful eye of Technical Delegate Ramin Shafiee from Iran, Mexican course designer, Benjamin Fernandez, presented excellent tracks over the three days of competition. Home runners Maria José Salazar Moreno (Saltillo de la Nutria) and Jorge Maurer Buch (Porteña) filled second and third places on the opening day when the eventual champions Salinas Rodriguez and Gabbana M slotted into sixth.
However a first-round mistake in Saturday’s Second Qualifier saw the pair miss out on the jump-off in which Mexico’s Michelle Llamas Valadez (Casarah), Paulina Reguero Cortina (Mike) and Jorge Maurer Buch clinched the top three spots.
The top 16, consisting of nine girls and seven boys, made the cut into yesterday’s finale which was a thriller from start to finish. The 11-fence first-round track included a triple combination just one from home, and two horse-and-rider combinations were eliminated when parting company – Maria José Salazar Moreno when her 16-year-old gelding slammed on the brakes at the oxer at fence five, and Michelle Llamas Valdez who came adrift at the first element of that triple combination.
Colombia’s Mariana Torres Gaviria was first of the nine to go against the clock and picked up 12 faults with Habibi de la Reine before South Africa’s Ana Van Coller (Claudia) and Mexico’s Alessandro Neumann Priess (Corlinus) each put four faults on the board. But Juan José Salinas Rodriguez and Gabbana M would make no mistake.
The little grey just flew around the track, getting just enough height over the new course of fences and scorching through the finish to put it up to the rest when the clock stopped on 35.34 seconds.
Iran’s Bardia Fereidonian and Ciruelo Mendocinas presented a lovely picture all week, and the big, honest grey mare looked set to post the second clear of the jump-off until lowering the first element of the former triple combination which was now reduced to just two jumping efforts.
The final three
When Mexico’s Luciana Leal Diaz (Marrakech) returned with eight faults it was now down the final three, and it was a nail-biter. Giullia Atrasas Bolson meant business from the outset, cutting tight on the rollback to the vertical at fence five only to meet the same fate as Fereidonian at the penultimate double. When she broke the beam in 38.68 seconds she was guaranteed a top-three placing, however, she said afterwards that she loved riding the 15-year-old chestnut mare Romina LS.
“My first round was not so good, but the jump-off was much better and I’m happy to be on the podium”, said the Brazilian girl who was offered very sound advice before going into the arena for the final time. “My trainer told me before the jump-off, just calm down. You don’t know the horse that well. What happens, happens. If you don’t win, that is no problem!”
There was a buzz of excitement from the spectators as Jorge Maurer Buch set off, second-last to go, and he certainly kept them on the edges of their seats. After hitting the second fence he galloped on for a fast four-fault result, but a tricky moment at fence five saw him almost unshipped from the saddle before making a spectacular recovery to finish the course with just eight faults on the board.
Now only José Daniel Montenegro Ortiz stood between Juan José Salinas Rodriguez and that top step of the podium, and when he raced through the finish it seemed the Guatemalan had done it. The clock showed the quickest time, 34.88 seconds, but to the disbelief of the crowd and the disappointment of the young athlete the late-falling pole at the very last fence would see him having to settle for a silver medal position. He was very philosophical about it.
“Having the last fence down in the jump-off is something that could happen. I wanted to risk everything and it went how it went. I wanted to win, but I knew that it could happen”, he said. And he expressed his appreciation for everything his gallant mare Squeakie had given him over the previous few days.
“I’ve been really happy with her, she is very fast and I like her a lot!”, he said.
The newly-crowned gold medallist admitted that there was plenty of pressure at the Final but said it was “a nice kind of pressure”, and that he was very proud to represent Mexico at the event. And he paid tribute to the diminutive Gabbana M who carried him so earnestly and courageously throughout the tournament.
“I am really happy with her, she is very tiny but she is great!”
And he also paid tribute to his opponents who, in the tradition that goes with success at junior level, unceremoniously threw him into the water jump after the prizegiving.
“It’s awesome being with kids from all around the world. It is a very nice experience to meet new people from other countries and see how they ride. All of them are very good and you learn a lot”, said the gracious new FEI Jumping Children’s Classics Final champion.
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