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Al Maktoum holds his nerve to win 120km Al Wathba Challenge


A  performance peppered with consistency saw Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Juma Al Maktoum contest and win the CEN 120km Al Wathba Challenge at Emirates International Endurance Village on Saturday. Riding M7 Stables’ 9yo crossbred gelding Al Sail, Sheikh Rashid completed the 120km ride, that had been broken down into four loops of 40km, 35km, 25km and 20km, in a total time of 4 hours 20 minutes and 50 seconds. He placed a second ahead of Emirati counterpart Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri, with Emirati lady rider Layla Mohammed Obaid Al Marzooqi settling for the final spot on the podium with a timing of 4:21.22.

The race was held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE and Minister of Presidential Affairs. It was sponsored by the HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan International Arabian Horse Festival. While Sheikh Rashid did it mostly with consistency, though a bit of a dip in form did lead to a few anxious moments towards the end, when Al Marri produced a strong performance to haul himself up the rung. He dug deep and pushed his 7yo stallion Adjar Du Manba hard in the second loop to move himself into contention and take second.

Stuck at 51 at the end of the first loop, Al Marri decided if he had to make his move he had to get things going in the second phase and what a ride the pair had as they finished with the 14th best cumulative timing. The ground work had been laid but still a lot remained to be done to get into the mix as he was still way off the pace and nearly seven minutes behind Sheikh Rashid, who was now at the top of the pack having upstaged early leader Mohammed Matar Rashed Al Mazroei. From 14, Al Marri moved into third before finally placing second at the end of the fourth and final 20km loop.

With Al Marri hot on his heels, Sheikh Rashid had to undergo a few anxious moments of his own in the third phase. With his average riding speed aboard Al Sail dropping from 28.99kph to 25.24kph, Layla saw her chance and moved to the summit. She was over a minute clear at the top starting the last phase. But seeing he could get more out of Al Sail, Sheikh Rashid asked for a quicker ride and the gelding responded promptly, allowing him to win back the lead from his countrywoman ahead of a rapidly charging Al Marri, who in the end had to be content with finishing second, having taken over the runners-up spot in the closing stages. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was present at the event and congratulated the riders at the finish.

HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Dubai Crown Prince, was also present and said a common plan for riders from the M7, F3 and M3M Stables led them to perform optimally. “I used to instruct them two years ago, but now I only follow them during the races. They have the experience they need and do not need instructions because they know all there is to know,” he said. Speaking of Al Sail, the winning horse, who was participating in a 120km ride for the first time, he added: “This was his first competitive performance at this distance, but there was a chance he would come good because he has been trained to run this distance before.”

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