A stroke of good fortune saw the UAE’s Al Ain Stables clinch a top two finish in the 2022 running of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (Al Fursan Cup) at AlUla in Saudi Arabia. With the Hegra Archaeological Site, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, serving as the backdrop, a total of 206 riders, male and female, and their mounts set out to tame the desert in the CEN** 120km ride, which was hosted by AlUla Governorate as part of the international sporting events for the Winter at Tantora Festival, organised by the Royal Commission for AlUla Governorate.
A shade over 31% of the total starters were deemed to have completed the ride after just 64 rider/horse pairs were passed fit from a field of 206 starters. And sitting at the top of that pile were a pair of riders from Uruguay, Federico Ferber and Andres Rivera, who plied their trade aboard horses owned by Al Ain Stables.
Ferber won, with Rivera just one second adrift, the compatriots holding hands as they crossed the finish. With a staggering $4.2 million up for grabs, competition was intense with riders from around the world descending to make their bid for glory. But guts aside, luck played a pivotal role in establishing Ferber as the winner as the South American gained immensely from the exit of Bahraini rider Othman Al Awadhi, who was forced to pull out of the competition after his mount Nefertiti De Ka picked up a severe muscular injury during the third loop spanning 28km.
Al Awadhi and his partner had dominated proceedings over the first two loops but had started to lose ground with the rest of the field surely but slowly closing in.
Ferber won aboard HC Yaiza, an 11yo mare bred in his native Uruguay, with a time of five hours 29 minutes and six seconds (5:29:06) as he overtook Rivera during the course of the second loop. The pair kept it close throughout with Rivera eventually placing a second behind in 5:29:07. Ferber began the day placed fourth after the first loop spanning 37.7km, behind leader Al Awadhi, who set a strong pace.
Ferber was :2:8 behind, but gained ground during the course of the second loop over 31.6km, moving into second and cutting the deficit in terms of time to a mere 58s. The Uruguayan applied more pressure during the third loop over 28km and with Al Awadhi being forced to throw in the towel after his partner picked up an injury, Ferber rightfully took the summit, with countryman Rivera the only likely candidate to upstage him.
Rivera, riding SM Fabricio, was 46s behind going into the final phase over 22.7km but Ferber wasn’t in a position to let this one slip and though the former came at him riding at a pace that was marginally quicker, he did enough to finish as the winner. Rivera was third over the first two phases and chased Ferber over the last two from second.
An absolutely delighted Ferber said: “Wow, this place is so beautiful. I am so proud to have won today for the trainer, for the owner, and so pleased to have competed in AlUla. Time flew past, as I was able to enjoy the ride. It was very tricky in parts so I had to concentrate, but the beauty is incredible.”
Frenchwoman Margot Chazel, riding the Sheikh Abdulla bin Faisal Al Qassimi owned Chaitana Des Chaises, did well to bring herself into contention moving from 12th to fifth and holding on to third over the last two phases as she finished with a time of 6:00:38. The same was true for fourth placed Indian rider Narayan Singh, who moved up from 15th to ninth and then retained fourth spot during the second half of the ride.
Camille Coulomb, another lady rider from France, did well to finish among the top five as she started the day 61st, but robustly climbed up the rung to 38th and thereafter 11th. Saudi Equestrian Federation president Prince Abdullah bin Fahd bin Abdullah crowned Ferber.
Prince Abdullah said: “Firstly, I would like to thank the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the Crown Prince, for their support for the sports sector in general and equestrian sport in particular, and the follow-up of minister of sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal.
“I congratulate Federico Ferber for winning first place, and I would like to thank the Royal Commission for AlUla Governorate and the International Equestrian Federation for their tireless work which has contributed to the success of this competition. “We hope that the jockeys, their horses, and their crew enjoyed their journey and experiences this week in AlUla, and we look forward to hosting them in future editions of the competition.”
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup for Endurance 2022 (Al Fursan Cup 2022), is hosted by AlUla Governorate and brought to an end the international sporting events for the Winter at Tantora Festival, organised by the Royal Commission for AlUla Governorate.