Ahlawat and Mirza sparkle

AMITABHA DAS SHARMA

The top four of the overall champion (four round) event (from left): Maj. Deep Ahlawat on Mirza, Capt. N. S. Sandhu on Ruffian, Nk. Girdhari Lal on Baaz and Sub. J. P. Masih on Mast Mowla. — Pic. S. PATRONOBISH-

MAJOR DEEP AHLAWAT and his horse Mirza proved to be the best equestrian pair of the country winning the overall title of the FEI World Challenge Show Jumping held in Kolkata recently. It was a story of grit and excellence as Ahlawat rode Mirza to make a remarkable comeback and take the top honours. The pair has been hogging the limelight with a podium finish in almost every event it participates. Ahlawat won many medals internationally including Asian Games bronze and awards gained at various Asia-Pacific and European equestrian meets.

The venue also started off the trials for the 2006 Asian Games. Mysore youngster Arun Maribashetti, the national senior and junior show jumping National champion, broke the Army hegemony winning the top spot for the trial alongside another decorated rider, Captain N. S. Sandhu of the National Defence Academy.

Maj. Ahlawat, a veterinary officer from the Remount Training School and Depot (RTS&D), Saharanpur, was definitely a cut above the rest. Combining his long riding experience with skills honed from regular training trips to Europe and Australia, showed definite improvement over the last year's second place performance as he controlled Mirza with deftness. He collected eight penalties and managed the best timing among a starting list of the best 19 pairs of riders and horses of the country. Capt. Sandhu remained the closest challenger and took the second spot.

The FEI World Challenge decided the positions from the aggregates tallied from two competitions — I & II — held over two days while each competition comprised two rounds to make it a total round of four. It remained a big challenge for the riders and the horses as each round saw the degrees of difficulties increasing with a new course done each time on the design sent by the world body, FEI.

The first competition saw Ahlawat and Sandhu incurring 8 -penalties to remain in the sixth and the ninth spots respectively, but they did exceptionally well in competition II returning successive clear rounds in difficult courses to snatch the top two spots in the overall count. The first competition belonged to the two other premier Army remount schools — RTS&D, Hempur and Remount Veterinary Centre & School (RVC&S), Meerut — as Naib Risaldar Bhagirath on Sagar and Dafedar Malchand astride Gold Finger of the two respective units topped the charts with perfect jumping efforts.

However, in the final standings of competition-I, Bhagirath edged Malchand to the second place. The two top pairs had each produced successive clear rounds on two variants of courses but Sagar showed better speed apart from his jumping abilities to help Bhagirath clock a timing of 62.81 and put Gold Finger and Malchand behind by around four seconds.

Arun Maribashetti, a final year engineering student of NIE, Mysore and riding a Karnataka Mounted Police horse, RE-5, was the only civilian rider to make a mark. He took the third spot incurring just two penalties for overshooting the time limit of 69 seconds allowed to complete the round `A' drill. His 74.17 seconds timing on his novice horse thus incurred two time-faults that he successively made up with a clear round in round `B'. Naik Girdhari Lal rode Baaz to record two penalties but fell behind to Shetti's round `B' timing.

In competition-II the pre-tournament favourites made a comeback with veteran rider S.G. Maribashetti finding his rhythm riding CJ-15 to net zero faults and the best timing.

The results

FEI world challenge show jumping: Overall champion (four rounds): 1. Maj. Deep Ahlawat on Mirza (RTS&D, Saharanpur) 8 penalties (time -- 223.15 secs); 2. Capt. N. S. Sandhu on Ruffian (NDA) 8 (224.30s); 3. Nk. Girdhari Lal on Baaz (509 ASC) 10 (234.14s).

Competition-I: 1. Nb. Ris. Bhagirath on Sagar (RTS&D, Hempur) Round `A' penalties - 0 + Round `B' penalties - 0 (time — 62.81); 2. Dfr. Malchand on Gold Finger (RVC, Meerut) 0+0 (66.69); 3. Arun Mariba Shetti on RE-5 (Karnataka Mounted Police) 2+0=2 (65.57).

Competition - II: 1. S. G. Maribashetti on CJ-15 (Karnataka Mounted Police) Round `A' penalties - 0 + Round `B' - 0 (time — 56.38); 2. Capt. N. S. Sandhu on Ruffian 0+0 (56.48); 3. Maj. Deep Ahlawat on Mirza 0+0 (57.26).

Doha Asian Games 2006 show jumping trial 1 (two rounds): 1-2 Arun Maribashetti (on CJ-15) 0+0 (time -- 86.34+80.26); Capt. N.S. Sandhu (Ruffian) 0+0 (84.92+81.27); 3. Dfr. Mal Chand (Gold Finger) 0+4=4.