As the 2019 Longines Masters of Hong Kong wound up on Sunday, Hong Kong’s Vincent Capol and Muhammad Akbar Kurniawan of Indonesia took the crown in two brand new junior events.
This year marked the seventh edition of the prestigious international indoor showjumping spectacular hosted by Hong Kong. Held in AsiaWorld-Expo on February 15 to 17, the three-day show included two fresh events, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Asian Junior Challenge and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Asian Junior Grand Prix, to allow budding showjumpers under the age of 18 to experience competing in a five-star international ring.
The junior events originally featured six top young riders from Asia, but unfortunately, Amirhossein Siahmansouri of Iran withdrew due to injuries. The remaining five riders were paired with horses from the organiser, as the junior competition was a “borrowed horse” event.
In the Asian Junior Challenge held on Saturday in a Table A format, riders had to complete a course with 1-metre-tall jumps, not against the clock. Fourteen-year-old Muhammad Akbar rode a clear round in the first phase, then finished in the jump-off phase in 34.21 seconds with the eight-year-old grey stallion Easyphighter Dei Folletti. Chinese Taipei’s Lin Tzu-yen, 14, came in second after picking up one time fault in the first phase, and Vincent of Hong Kong earned third place, also with a time penalty but a slower finishing time than Lin.
“It’s great to compete and win a junior competition in a Longines Masters show. The other riders were very good, especially Vincent and Edgar [Fung Ho-yuen] from Hong Kong,” said Muhammad Akbar, who was on the team that won the FEI CSIJ-B Standard Show in Bangkok last November.
The second junior class event on Sunday was more exciting and more challenging than the first, as the jump heights were raised to 1.10 metres. Contestants had to compete in two rounds; the rider with the fewest penalties across both rounds, and the best time in the second round, won.
The power of home crowd support was evident during the Asian Junior Grand Prix, as the city’s “2018 Junior Rider of the Year” Vincent managed to finish two faultless rounds. His impressive performance with 11-year-old mare It’s A Gamble not only won him the Grand Prix prize, but also made him the first Hong Kong rider in seven years to claim victory at an international tournament hosted by Longines Masters.
In a post-match interview with Young Post on Sunday, the German Swiss International School student said it was a dream come true to take part in a Longines Masters event, and that he was satisfied with his performance and his experience with the assigned horse.
“Today’s performance was an improvement from yesterday’s, thanks to the help of my coaches who came up with some new strategies,” said Vincent. “I love the horse It’s A Gamble, she has so much power and scope. I’m glad I got along with her.”
The 15-year-old added he needed to thank his mother and younger sister for their unwavering support, helping him through the grief of losing his father to cancer last year.
“It was hard on all of us, but his father was a fighter, too. I’m sure he would be very proud of what Vincent achieved today,” said Charlotte, Vincent’s mother.
The first runner-up was again Tzu-yen, with one fault, while the third place went to fellow Hong Kong representative Edgar Fung Ho-yuen, 15, who received two time penalties.
The Pak Kau College student was eliminated in Saturday’s competition after falling off the 13-year-old gelding Calmano, after the grey collected their first fault by clipping an upright with its forelegs. They mistimed coming into the following jump, an oxer, demolishing the jump and sending Edgar over the horse’s head. Edgar said he was glad that both he and the horse were in better shape during the Grand Prix.
“I made a big mistake on the first day. But I was more confident and I had better distance control today,” said the 2018 Youth Olympic Games rider. “After the two competitions, I think I must improve my speed on the jump-off course, and work on the small and sharp turns.”