As the fans of Sevilla reached the end of their feria and Madrid’s San Isidro was about to start, Valencia was the scene of a taurine weekend in honor of their Virgen de los Desamparados. A novillada on May 7 with bulls from the eminent Conde de Mayalde, was flanked by two novilladas sin picadores with two-year-old cattle (officially called erales) from Daniel Ramos and Aida Jovani respectively. They were called clases practicas, which meant they were a chance for students of tauromachy from schools from all over Spain to show the Valencian afición what the future of bullfighting had in store.

First to appear Friday 6, was Manuel Osuna, a student from Ecija. His black bull reacted well to the lure of the capote but was badly banderilleared by the cuadrilla. Still, a fine faena followed with passes over both horns which built up the boy’s confidence but a bad sword broke it down again and lost him the trophy.

Next came the Alicantino Borja Escudero who also received a black opponent but with horns so wide it made my neighbour remark that “if they stood out any wider, the bull would take off and fly away”. This animal proved more complicated than his predecessor and knocked over young Borja several times. After the  banderillas were placed it responded well to the muleta which resulted in a long but by no means tedious faena. Several bad attempts to kill evaporated the chance of a reward.

The third novillero was “Nek” Romero from Valencia (who used to be announced as Garcia Romero but thought this an unsuitable name for a torero). I first saw him two and a half years ago in Chelva when he left on shoulders. Nek is one of the upcoming stars of Valencia’s Escola de Tauromaquia. 

As the brown bull rushed out of the toril gate he saw his path blocked by the kneeling novillero, swirling his capote in a larga afarolada de rodillas which was repeated several times and was much applauded. The act of banderillas became the moment in the sun for a young black torero named Juan Palacios. While holding the two sticks he knelt on the sand and bent over backwards several times, almost touching the floor with his shoulders. Then he ran forward, frog jumped over the bull and perfectly placed the banderillas. The public broke out in a roar to acknowledge these never before seen acrobatics. Then, according to taurine journalist Enrique Amat: “Nek Romero’s faena had its ups and downs, with a series  of superior naturales as its highlight.” The kill was effective and got him two ears! Nek had opened the main gate. 

CITAR, the Escuela Superior de Tauromaquia from Fuentelencina, a village in Guadalajara with an enormous taurine tradition sent their star pupil Emilio Ricard. His novillo was a fine, well mannered, well horned red skinned animal who charged the cape well repeating his charges during the faena passing the muleta in fine left and right passes with the cloth held low. Sadly a bad sword left the aspiring torero empty handed while the dead bull was applauded as he was dragged out of the arena.

During his performance Aaron Palacios, from Zaragoza’s taurine school Mar de Nubes, was tossed several times but dusted off his clothes and got up again. Although it seemed the small, but well developed bull was too much for him, he delivered a high quality performance of mainly left handed muleta passes. Aaron too had trouble managing his sword but according to my notes still received an ear.

Cristiano Torres from the school in Salamanca was the last novillero of the first day of the three-day-event. His was a well armed, well proportioned novillo and after a superb tercio de banderillas by his cuadrilla, he started his faena with some spectacular passes on his knees, followed by some exceptional series of right- and left hand passes. Although his performance went on too long and the boy was badly tossed several times, everything was done with an extraordinary elegance. A marvelous combination of technical skill and artistic interpretation. The novillero received two ears and the dead bull got a triumphant lap around the arena. He had waited for more than two hours before he could make his mark, but Cristiano Torres ended the friday novillada on the highest note possible. He and Garcia “Nek” Romero left the arena on shoulders.

The following day, six handsome three-year-old novillos of the Conde de Mayalde waited for Manuel Francisco Sánchez Garcia, a young bullfighter from the small Salamancan town of Diosleguarde who took the name of his native village as his alias, Miguel Senent “Miguelito” and the recent winner of the National League of Novilladas, the Mexican revelation Aaron Foseca. The plaza was only half full but when it was over, those who stayed at home wished they hadn’t.

The first to shoot out of the toril was a black bull of 444 kilo’s who reacted well to the capote but seemed to lose some strength in the following passes. It recovered well and took two good pics and two pairs of banderillas. “Diosleguarde” started his faena with four muletazos on his knees and some right handers standing up. More derechazos were followed by some great naturales on the left horn to great excitement of the public in the arena on Carrer Jativa. The sword went in perfectly and the novillero was awarded the first ear of the evening. Sadly the extraordinary novillo did not receive a well earned lap of honor post mortem.

The bull waiting for Miguelito Senent–one of Valencia’s lost generation of novilleros–was another black animal that weighed just one kilo more that the previous novillo. At first glance this one too seemed not too strong and sadly did not give Miguel the opposition he needed although his faena consisted of a few nice derechazos executed with a very low held right hand. The sword should have crowned his work but didn’t. However it was a delight to see Ruben García in his cuadrilla placing banderillas and working the capote de brega. I had known him since he was knee high and always saw him in the plaza’s infirmary with his caretaker father. Ruben decided to become a torero and was instantly called (though not to his liking) “El Niño de la Enfermería”. The last time I saw him was in 2006 in a novillada sin picadores but not too long after he retired to the silver ranks. Three years ago he was very seriously gored by a novillo in the small town of La Peza (Granada) but I was glad to see he made a full recovery. 

The third novillo was called Segurito and weighed 472 kilos! Aaron Fonseca was the reason why I had decided to come to Valencia after seeing him triumph in some televised novilladas earlier this season. And I wasn’t disappointed. This small sized Mexican has the flair of a well experienced matador de toros. He moves his cape with exceptional ease, his muleta passes are incredible to watch while the “estatuario” passes which ended his faena were the most impressive I had seen in years. The bull tossed and treaded on him after the sword had gone in but the young Mexican got up unfazed and watched the animal surrender. A thundering ovation from the crowd unanimously petitioned the president for a two-ear reward. But to everyone’s surprise he was only given one and walked the arena in three, triumphant laps of honor.

Manuel Diosleguarde’s second opponent (of 463 kilo’s) protested all the time he was in the ring but the tenacious novillero still managed to get a few passes out of him. Unfortunately the sword hit bone and was then pushed in too far back. A disappointed novillero failed to open the main gate but instead walked to the centre of the arena and thanked the public for their generous support.

It was the moment for Miguelito to get ready for his second novillo whose name was Haraposo. He weighed 496 kilo’s, which made him the heaviest novillo of the weekend. In an attempt to amaze his public, the young Valencian attempted to receive him on his knees but the novillo almost ran straight through him. After the picador dispensed two well placed pics and his cuadrilla were given permission to salute the crowd after perfectly placing three pairs of sticks, Miguelitio started his faena. But Haraposo was a left-horned bull so most of his faena was executed with classic naturales which he performed slowly and with great beauty. The sword went in to the side but the novillero was still awarded an ear. 

Boticario, the last bull of the evening, was led back to the corrals after injuring himself trying to jump the fence. He was replaced by a black sobrero of 460 kilo’s named (according to my notes) Haraposo who reacted well to two strong pics and six banderillas. Haraposo and his matador Aaron Fonseca would become the most outstanding combination of the evening. Fonseca started his faena with the same incredible “estatuario” passes he had treated us to with his first bull. He then cited the animal “de frente” and with his feet firmly planted together, coaxed the charge and perfectly passed the bull. A superb estocada got him both ears and accompanied by a thundering ovation the 23 year old Mexican invited the mayoral of Conde de Mayalde’s ganaderia to join him in a splendid lap of honor. Having convinced the afición in many country bullrings, Aaron Fonseca now opened Valencia’s main gate and began his conquest of first category plazas. 

Sunday May 8 was the last day of this already outstanding weekend of bullfighting. Another evening of six promising students of tauromachy from all over the country with bulls from Aida Jovani, a young ganadera from the Castellón region. And although no picadors were to enter the ring, two perfect paralel white circles had already been carefully laid down on the sand, obviously–this being a day for students to show their talents–by a student of white-line-drawing.

First to appear was Joan Marín, a local lad who had drawn a well proportioned, well armed black bull (As is  custom with novilladas sin picadores, no weights were given.) With some good opening veronicas he sent the bull to the banderilleros (also students of the Valencian taurine school) who blundered the tercio by putting the sticks in the animal’s neck, rump and backside. This did not divert the matador who produced a fine faena on both horns but, as is often the case, went on too long (no time check was given) and let the bull walk away from him. So what could have been a triumphant evening for Marín, became a disaster when he needed six attempts with the sword. 

Sergio Sánchez from Badajóz received his lovely grey mini-bull with fine veronicas but wasn’t up to stand up to its first complicated charges. Still his faena received some applause for a good series of right hand passes after which he was thrown to the ground by the feisty little novillo. Even so, his sword got the bull down and the novillero the ear. 

Ignacio Boné, from the bullfighting school of Huesca got another well built and strong two-year-old mini bull that kept charging his muleta to which the novillero had no answer. Though some left-hand passes saved his performance, a dreadful sword made him leave the arena in silence. 

Two and a half years ago I wrote in the november edition of Las Noticias: “Alberto Donaire must be the smallest novillero I have ever seen. He can hardly look over the wooden barrier and although talented, he will have to build up his strength to succeed.” Alberto had grown. Not only in stature, his toreo most certainly had become more mature and his performance today undoubtedly qualified as the most complete, most surprising and certainly most beautiful of the afternoon. A set of ten veronicas started his performance and were breathtaking. They (according to TauroimagenPlus) “showed control, were agonizingly slow and had excellent rhythm. Alberto stood his ground with every pass.” His command over the bull was not only surprising but classic and assured. Sadly, he did not cut ears because of a poor handling of the sword. But I’m certain young Alberto could in future be one of Valencia’s top toreros.

Once the amazing performance by Donaire had settled in the people’s minds, Javier Aparicio a lanky young man from Castellón (who received another–I know–well proportioned black mini bull) not only had a hard time controlling his animal, he was also seriously hampered by severe gusts of winds. The sword went in at the second attempt and Javier Aparicio walked a triumphant lap of honor holding up his well deserved trophy.

The weekend of wonderful novilladas ended with the performance of the Valencian Miguel Garcia “El Potro” whose opponent was branded with the number 100. Several kneeling passes started the novillero’s display of taurine prowess which was followed by a very good exhibition of banderilla placing. Although he too was interrupted by the wind, The Colt managed some well controlled and elegant passes for which he was awarded an ear in spite of needing two attempts to bring the bull down. Number 100 was slowly dragged around the ring no doubt as a tribute to the six wonderful erales Aida Jovani had brought to Valencia. After a very enjoyable weekend of taurine pleasure, everyone went home happy and fulfilled. I certainly did.

Cronica de Pieter Hildering

Fotografias de Mateo de Tauroimagenpluscom