Rising star Meong Sochea got the best out of playful pony Benjimen to win an exciting four-rider jump-off in the Grand Prix division on the final day of the 2011 Norodom Sihanouk du Cambodge Show Jumping Championship at the Cambodian Country Club horse park yesterday.
Clearing the six-hurdle stage with great aplomb, 20-year-old Sochea of local charity organisation Cheval Avenir ensured that a somewhat kinky Benjimen stayed focused to perform a string of good turns and jumps without a blemish to return a smart timing of 45 seconds. Equestrian veteran of 30 years, Harry Park astride a rangy Temper, who dwarfed the rest by his massive frame, set a scorching pace with a clean run to clock 46 seconds. However, Sochea was right up to the challenge.
The highly talented Long Sopheaktra trotted in a fraction over 49 seconds to finish ahead of That Van on 52 seconds.
In the overall standings reached after computing the performances over all of the three meetings held on consecutive Sundays, Sochea’s low tally of seven points earned him the championship. Sopheaktra Lon with 11 points managed to peg back Harry Park (16 points) into third place.
In the presence of honourary guest HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Dubai, who is President of the International Equestrian Federation, and Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Sirivudh, as well as many high ranking sports officials, the 13-rider Grand Prix offered a mix of entertainment and enthralling fare.
Last year’s champion Sim Narith literally fell out of contention at the last clearance, and Chandy Chea was thrown off his mount, the latter of which was stretchered away for immediate medical attention although injuries were later classified as not serious.
Tep Mona was the lone female contestant in the pack, but after some good initial jumps she was eliminated as her mount Unique was in less than competitive mood.
Much was expected from last year’s runner-up John You, but the Australian astride Radical had to retire with a saddle slip. However, at the end of the day You was beaming a big smile as he received a special trophy for being part of one family which had four participants in the Championships.
The day’s other attraction, the Gallop 4/5 category, produced some interesting duels. Despite Yannick de Wilde setting the best run on Sunday, the overall class title went to Chenda Goossens with de Wilde playing second fiddle. Ly Sovanchandra finished third and Srey Oun fourth.
Meanwhile, Veasna Dy scaled the top of Gallop 2/3, with Alicia Khiem taking the runners-up spot. Louise Guibert finsihed third, and Khat Phal fourth.
In the Gallop 1 section, Lili Duverge emerged as No 1 ahead of Abi How, with Celiane de Wilde finishing third and Ester Guibert fourth.
Princess Haya and Prince Norodom Sirividhu, along with some of the dignitaries, gave away the trophies and pinned the ribbons on the podium finishers. Several old photographs fished out from the Kingdom’s
archives, dating back several decades and now securely framed, were shown to the FEI President.
Vath Chamroeun, the Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, was presented with a framed picture of the last Cambodian team to take part in an international competition nearly 60 years ago.
The Princess was earlier taken on a tour of the horse park and other facilities at the Cambodian Country Club premises. She is understood to have been impressed by what she saw and, according to sources close to the FEI, the international body will extend all possible assistance to the Cambodian Equestrian Federation, especially now that a Cambodian team is likely to take part in the upcoming SEA Games this November.
Van Sou Ieng, President of the CCC, described the Princess’ visit as a great occasion to celebrate for Cambodian equestrian sport.