IN WHAT was one of this season’s most keenly contested affairs in endurance riding, Saeed Ahmad Al Harbi ensured F3 Stables was triumphant in the National Day Cup at Emirates International Endurance Village in Al Wathba. With His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in attendance, a field of 217 set out in a bid to land the honours with just 22 being passed at the finish. The CEN 120km race on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi witnessed Al Harbi sealing a narrow success aboard Alesha with a time of 4 hours 11 minutes and 18 seconds after bouncing in and out of contention. Al Harbi nicked the honours over the final loop as he finished a mere 11 seconds ahead of Emirati compatriot Saeed Salem Atiq Al Muhairi, who completed the ride aboard SS Private Stables’ Kaiser in a time of 4:11.29.
In third place was Al Wathba Stables rider Sultan Aref Mohsen of Yemen, who was a further seven seconds adrift aboard HLP Gadafi with a time of 4:11.36. Saeed Hamoud Al Khayari of M7 2 Stables took the lead after the inaugural 40km aboard Comanche with Al Harbi 19secs behind in second place. Al Harbi reduced his riding speed over the second phase, and slipped to sixth but the lead changed hands as well with M7 Endurance Stables’ HH Sheikh Hamed Dalmook Al Maktoum taking charge of affairs aboard Tsika La Majorie as he moved to the top from 13th. Sheikh Hamed was eliminated during the 25km third loop after his mount was adjudged as displaying an irregular gait which opened the door for Al Muhairi to take the summit going into the final phase.
The third phase saw Al Harbi making progress and edging closer to the top, he had climbed two spots up to fourth, but still lagged behind by 1m36s. Al Harbi increased his pace over the final 20km loop from 26.6kph to 33.47kph and that proved only just sufficient to move him into top place and settle in for a narrow 11sec victory from Al Muhairi, who started the race in fourth, moved up to second and then was pegged back to the runners up position after briefly holding top spot. Yemen’s third placed rider Mohsen did extremely well over the course of the day having been placed 66th at the end of the first loop. He was 14th at the end of the second but was relegated to third from second during the course of the final loop. Fourth and fifth spots were filled by Emiratis Mohammed Juma Ali Al Muhairi and Rashed Hamoud Al Junaibi, riders representing Dubawi Stables and Al Wathba Stables respectively.
Mohammed Al Muhairi completed the ride aboard Volkane Feuillee in a time of 4:14.40, while Al Junaibi made it home on Sarab in 4:15.03. Al Harbi was full of praise for his 11yo mare Alesha and said she did exactly was asked of her during the course of the ride. “She worked well and was strong throughout the ride and was at a different level compared to previous appearances. She was not tired at all despite putting in such a strong effort, which shows that she is bound to do much more during the season ahead,” Al Harbi said. “The competition was very strong and the field was tough so I wasn’t sure of how things would work but my mare was simply amazing and fought her own battles against some of the strongest horses.” A minute’s silence was observed during the course of the day to pay respect to the UAE’s martyrs.
Major General Dr Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, the President of the UAE Equestrian Federation, said: “On this day the UAE remembers the achievements of its righteous sons who defended the country with courage and sacrificed everything to defend their homeland. “This sacrifice will never be forgotten and will remain engraved in the memories of the nation and the consciousness of the sons of the country.