Six months after the World Championships in Paris both Middle Eastern and European owners and breeders make their way towards the French Riviera, to the picturesque Menton. This is a kind of half-way point in the show season, which begins in January for the Arab studs. Menton has an atmosphere of an Italian town, but has for years been considered the citrus capital of France. Here the sun shines 300 days of the year, the fruit is sweeter and the colors more intense. Since 1934 the town has been known for its La Fete du Citron, the Lemon Festival, during which visitors can watch various vehicles made of citrus fruit floating down the streets. The decorations of the annual A-ranked show under the name of Championnat de Pur-sang Arabes de la Méditerranée et des Pays Arabes are a nod towards these festivities – this year (22nd-23rd June) we admired an elaborate citrus canopy spread over the center of the show arena.
This is also one of the few shows where the announcer welcomes guests by saying: „Your Highnesses, ladies, gentlemen”. Indeed, several crowned heads tend to appear here personally to enjoy the successes of their horses, but most of all to spend time in a pleasant way. The guests focus their attention more on each other than they do on the competing horses, which do not have an easy task due to the killer heat. Therefore quite often they appear sleepy and do not show impressive movement. This year the weather spared the participants, delivering cloudy skies on the second day of the show and a lower temperature than usual.
The show is conducted similarly to that in Paris. The mares compete on the first day and the stallions on the second. The finals are held on Sunday afternoon. This year the jury panel consisted of Gianmarco Aragno (Italy), Dr Nasr Marei (Egipt), Ann Norden (Sweden), Renata Schibler (Switzerland), Joanne Lowe (Great Britain) and Anna Stojanowska from Poland. The number of horses entered (168) is evidence that the show enjoys unabated popularity. The only thing that kept us wondering was where – on a small area adjacent to the beach – they managed to squeeze in all those stalls!
Junior and senior mares: from across the pond to the Middle East
Menton is a great opportunity to observe various transfers on the Arabian horse market – they are usually made in one direction, to the Middle East. But the A series of the yearling fillies’ class was won by a horse actually bred there – by one of Al Shaqab’s managers, Mohammed Al Sulaiti – the heralded by many advertisements Minwah (Kahil Al Shaqab – LC Primavera/Padrons Psyche), a charge of Al Jassimya Farm (Qatar). The black AJ Haila (Roi Intencyty – Sylviah WLF/Ata Bey Star), bred by Robin Hood Farms (USA) and owned by Ajman Stud was second. The European breeders were happy with a class top five of a filly from their continent, the milky white daughter of Shanghai E.A., FM Rihanna (out of FN Nefertari/BC Specific), bred and owned by Yeguada Bidasao (Spain).
Just like in Paris, the show in Menton separately awards horses with the best heads. Among the A series this trophy was won by the third in class Mera Al Sayed (RHR Marcedes – Bonne Chance TBA/JJ Senior Magnum), bred by Don Manuel Arabians (USA) and already sold to Saudi Arabia.
Turning heads in the B series from the very beginning was Esperanza Al Ventur (FA El Shawan – Honey’s Delight RB/JJ Senior Magnum), already a Brazilian National Junior Champion, another discovery of Ward Bemong working for Athbah Stud (Saudi Arabia). Second place was secured by Ajmaniah OS (Ajman Moniscione – AB Nastrapsy/Psytadel), known from Middle
Eastern shows. The filly was bred in Germany (Osterhof Stud) and has since been sold to Ajman Stud.
It should be noted that the class top fives of the yearling fillies (and later of the yearling colts) were awarded with cheques worth 2,500 euro, funded by Alzobair Stud. This is a great encouragement especially for smaller breeders to try showing their horses, even among such tough competition as that in Menton.
The 2 year old fillies’ class saw another successful import from America – Faraah C by Marhaabah out of an MCA Magnum Gold daughter, owned by sheikh Khaled Ahmed Bagedo
(Saudi Arabia). The filly was bred by the Steffens from the US. The Royal Stud of Oman found great joy in their purchase of Aja Europa (Aja Justified – HB Marais/Marwan Al Shaqab) from the Hickfords (Great Britain). She lost to the winner by just 0,1 point (her total score was 91,5). This class also had one more outstanding equine of European breeding (Belgium), the sold to Jordan daughter of Shanghai E.A. – Nesj El Jude (4th place in class). The Best Head award went to the class’ winner, Faraah C.
The B series of the 2 year olds was won by another well-known show contender, AJ Asyad (Marwan Al Shaqab – Aja Angelica/WH Justice) from Ajman, the owner of this class’ best head. Second came in Tahani Al Khaled (MCA Magnum Gold – LC Tomita/Padrons Psyche), bred and owned by Al Khaled Farm (Saudi Arabia).
Among the 3 year old fillies the best junior mare was decisively Nada Al Shahania (Besson Carol – MFA Annies Song/Ludjin El Jamaal), bred by Michael Byatt (USA) and owned by Al Shahania Stud, linedbred to Ali Jamaal. Two years ago she turned heads in Scottsdale and Las Vegas, claiming the silver. Second in class placed Vicenta TO by Da Vinci FM out of a Bey Shah daughter, imported from the US to the Emirates. Widely promoted, purchased as a foal by Shirley Watts, Alfabia Akiabara by ZT Marwetyn placed fourth and took home the award for best head. So far this is the greatest success for the get of this stallion, who had perhaps the loudest and most effective marketing campaign of recent years.
A huge surprise was delivered in the 4-7 year old mares’ class by the chestnut daughter of WH Justice, the Belgian-bred Aja Aphrodite (Loving Psyche SSA/Padrons Psyche), owned by the Australian stud of Mystica Arabians. She bested the favorite FM Gloriaa, also by WH Justice (out of Psity of Angels/Psytadel). Both gained a full set of “20s” for head and neck! FM Gloriaa could also boast a result of four “20s” for type (Aja Aphrodite had “only” three “20s” for this trait) and it was this charge of Azlobair Stud that received the award for best head.
The top five of the oldest mares’ class (8 years old and above) consisted solely of grey beauties. And only in this class could we admire horses of Polish breeding. Apart from the Michałów-bred and Albidayer Stud-owned Ebla (Gazal Al Shaqab – Eberia/Ecaho), who placed sixth, we could also witness Janów’s Etnologia (Gazal Al Shaqab – Etalanta/Europejczyk), who was assessed exceptionally high by the judges (93,3!). Shirley Watts’ favorite won her class, outdoing World Champion Panarea by Palawan (WH Justice – Palawan/Padrons Ghibli) by 0,3 points. Another Polish mare from the barns of Halsdon Arabians, the Janów-bred Pinta (Ekstern – Pilar/Fawor), was third. The best head in this class belonged to the fourth placed holder, Jamilla Al Zobair (Ashal Al Rayyan – My Silk Stocking/Thee Desperado).
A Sunday full of “20s”
The Sunday classes began early at 9 am, exactly on time, because the day promised to be a laborious one – mainly for the judges, who were to spend 11 hours on the show arena with a short lunch break. Victorious in the A series of the yearling colts’ class (and best head category) was the chestnut Nesj El Machiatto by Ajman Moniscione, out of the Khidar daughter, Nesj El Khimala. The Belgian-bred colt is owned by Al Mohamadia Stud (Saudi Arabia). Remaining with the same owner so far was the second in class, grey Antaris OS by RFI Farid out of Justina by WH Justice, bred and owned by Gestut Osterhof (Germany).
In the B series of this age category the grey Shaker Al Shaqab (Gazal Al Shaqab – Shama Al Shaqab/Ashhal Al Rayyal), a charge of Al Shaqab Stud, won by 0,1 points with the well-known Scottsdale and Las Vegas participant Prussia MI (Abha Qatar – Parada/Magnum Forty Four), bred in Australia and owned by Al Mohamadia Stud. But it was Prussia MI that claimed the Best Head trophy. Fourth in this class was the Belgian Equiborn KA, son of QR Marc and Espadrilla by Monogramm, a result of his dam’s lease to Paul Gheysens (Knocke Arabians).
Victorious among the 2 year olds was another horse from Athbah Stud – the owner of the best head in this class, Ascott DD (Glorius Apal – Lady Nina DD/Psytadel) of Belgian breeding. He bested Sultan Al Shaqab (Amir Al Shaqab – Abha Al Shaqab/Abha Fadil). To much surprise the strongly promoted AJ Mardan by Vervaldee from Ajman Stud managed only a third spot.
The situation repeated itself in the 3 year old colts’ class. Here it was also the favorite that won (including Best Head) – a giant from Athbah Stud, the robust, tall EKS Alihandro (Marwan Al Shaqab – OFW Psylhouette/Padrons Psyche) bred in the Republic of South Africa. Second, much to the joy of Reinhardt Sax, was Al Marid (Al Milan – Bafra B/El Nabila B) bred in Slovakia. The fourth spot was taken by Pavarotto KA (QR Marc – Palanga/Ekstern) from Knocke Arabians.
The 4-6 year old stallions’ class was won by a horse that was a favorite from the very beginning – El Palacio VO, son of Al Lahab and Michałów’s El Dorada by Sanadik El Shaklan. Born in the US at Valley Oak Arabians, he is today the property of Prince Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (Saudi Arabia). Second placed the Straight Egyptian, though Italian-bred and owned, Frasera Dubai (Phaaros – Frasera Mashara/Shahil), a pupil of Francesco Santoro (Alevamento La Frasera). El Palacio VO turned out to have the prettier head.
The oldest stallions’ class was a sheer „one horse show” performed by Baanderos (Marwan Al Shaqab – HB Bessolea/Besson Carol) – with five “20s” for type and five “20s” for head and neck! His final score of 94,8 points gave his rivals no chance. Bred at Taylor Hickman Arabians (USA), he is owned by Al Khalediah Stables of Saudi Arabia. The second in this class Im Bayard Cathare (Padrons Immage – Shamilah Bagheera/Nadir), bred in France and property of the Royal Cavalry of Oman, didn’t receive a single “twenty”, but due to very level
marks for all traits bested the US-bred and sheikh-owned MCA Magnum Gold (Magnum Psyche – Littique/Littigator), who received as many as five “20s” for type.
We must admit that the judges – especially in the senior classes – did not begrudge the top marks to the contenders. A full set of “20s” – a rather rare sight – appeared a total of five times! Twice among the mares (Aja Aphrodite, FM Gloriaa) and thrice among the stallions (Baanderos
– two full sets and MCA Magnum Gold).
Before we met the medalists, the attraction of the day was a performance delivered by parachutists, who landed in the arena to an interesting version of La Marseillaise.
The finals – a prognosis for the future
The medals went of course mainly to the Middle East. There were only two European horses and one Australian that made their way onto the podium (an Italian took the bronze, a German took the silver and the Australian took another silver). The most medals were claimed by Saudi
Arabia: 3 golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes. Then came the United Arab Emirates – 1 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze, Qatar – 2 golds, 1 bronze and Oman – 1 silver.
Victorious among the yearling fillies was Minwah (Qatar) before Esperanza Al Ventur (Saudi Arabia) and Ajmaniah OS (UAE). The junior mare championship was won by Nada Al Shahania (Qatar), the silver went to AJ Asyad (UAE) and the bronze to Tahani Al Khaled (Saudi Arabia).
That what was possible in the class competition proved unthinkable in the finals. FM Gloriaa (UAE) won with Aja Aphrodite (Australia) and Panarea by Palawan (UAE). She was also chosen Best in Show Mare.
The yearling colts’ finals was surprising in such a way that the graduate of Al Shaqab received none of the medals. The trophies were divided between Prusia MI (Saudi Arabia), Antaris OS (Germany) and Nesj El Macchiatto (Saudi Arabia).
There were no surprises among the junior stallions. The favorite EKS Alihandro (Saudi Arabia) unanimously took the gold. The representative of the same stud Ascot DD claimed the silver, while Sultan Al Shaqab (Qatar) had to settle for the bronze.
The senior stallions’ final and Best in Show award went to Baanderos (Saudi Arabia). Behind him on the podium stood two chestnuts: IM Bayard Cathare (Oman) and Frasera Dubai (Italy).
A pleasant accent for Polish breeding was an award for the best breeder sponsored by Dubai Arabian Horse Stud which went to Janów Podlaski Stud. In tune the Trophee Mirwanah award,
sponsored by Kalliste Arabians, was given to Etnologia.
Horses that made their presence known in Menton will be considered favorites in the most important title shows of the season, therefore we will hear about them still more than once. That’s what the owners and training stables are counting on. Many of them will enlarge their title collection, now boasting medals from the French Riviera, still this very season.