The third and final leg of the Norodom Sihanouk du Cambodge Show Jumping Championships at the Cambodian Country Club horse park on Sunday will be a commemoration of the late King Father’s love for horses and his passion for the equestrian sport.
The Cambodian Equestrian Federation (CEF) will organise a short but sentimental pre-event exhibition to celebrate the former monarch’s life of equine adventures, having first got into the saddle at a very young age.
“It is a touching tribute to our beloved King Father, who was a Cadre Noir from l’Ecole de Saumur, the highest grade of Cavalier from one of the top schools for equine sport and the military. He will be remembered for ever,” CEF secretary-general Tep Mona told the Post yesterday.
The day is not just about sentimentality, it is also about fierce competition as the leading contenders zealously guard the advantage they have gained over the first two legs held at the same venue last month.
The accumulated penalty points count for double in the finals, and that could play a crucial part in determining the winners and losers, much as the challengers chasing the wind cutters hope for a few slip-ups at the top.
As many as 59 riders are featured in five different categories, and each one is likely to be keenly contested.
The top billing goes to the 90cm Grand Prix class involving six riders who almost form the national team. The top three in the group are separated by just a point each, with the fourth in line three points adrift.
Jumping out with a narrow lead at three penalty points is the first-leg winner and second-leg runner-up Ly Sovanachandara from local NGO the Maddox Foundation. Breathing down his neck is second-leg winner Phun Pheaktra, a groom from the Cambodian Country Club. The consistent Moeng Sochea, another CCC groom, could make life harder for the leaders.
There is very little to choose from between the top three contenders in the 70cm Intermediate class involving six riders. The French pair of Cheng Along Thara and Lola Moffet are up against Cambodian-Russian Alicia Khiem in a three-way battle, where all have five points each stuffed in their saddlebags, while the rest of the field is nowhere in sight.
Among the 18 riders lining up for the 50cm junior event, 14-year-old Esther Zina Guibert goes out as a prime choice with just two penalty points. Chasing her at five is Cambodian-Belgian Gabriel Goosens, who is well clear of the third-placed Bettina Bonnard of France on nine points.
Germany’s Greta Masche could be a piping-hot favourite to take the Pony Control in a big field of 22, since her nearest rival, Belgium’s Fauve DeLanghe, is five points away on seven. Local girl Prak Virak from Maddox Foundation, who is shadowing the Belgian, could well fill the frame.
A field of seven fighting for honours in the 50cm Senior section could see Pascal Keo bring some cheer to the home crowd. The only threat to the 14-year-old is Dutch rider Sjoperd Ypma, who is just two years older and two points poorer at four. French-Australian Tess Galloway-Bussi is off the pace on eight points.
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at [email protected]