A terrific partner in Abhsik Coutillas coupled with his own unwavering brand of determination saw Hamdan Ahmad Al Marri produce a brilliant ride en route to victory in the Seeh Al Salam Endurance Challenge at Dubai International Endurance City last Friday. The pair turned in the performance of a lifetime and went about their business at an average speed of 27.26kph which in turn helped them clock the best time of 4 hours 21 minutes and 58 seconds among the 47 riders who finished from a starting field of 179. Riding F3 Stables’ 9yo gelding Abhsik Coutillas, Al Marri had to dig deep in his bid to secure success victory in the CEN 119km ride that was broken down into four phases after placing 31st at the end of the first loop.
Al Marri knew his work had been cut out and performed admirably over the second and third phases to secure a comfortable victory in the end, where he turned up a minute and 51 seconds ahead of second placed Dhusiyanthan Panneer Selvam of Sri Lanka, who rode Al Bawadi Stables’ Balkan Kazan home in a time of 4:23.49. Completing the podium in third place was Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum, who clocked 4:25.14 aboard M7 Endurance Stables’ Altariq. Two other Emirati riders rounded off the top five, with Salem Hamad Al Kitbi and Hamad Obaid Al Kaabi filling in at fourth and fifth respectively. Riding 8yo gelding Balkan Kazan, Selvam led after the first 40km phase and managed to hold on to his advantage over the course of the second phase spanning 35km.
The Sri Lankan rider was ahead, but he knew he had a posse of Emirati riders hot on his heels. At the end of the first loop Al Marri, placed 31st and was a good three minutes and 10 seconds behind, with the deficit increasing during the course of the second phase after Selvam upped his tempo slightly. Al Marri managed to climb up to 14th, but the gap had increased to 3m32s. However, in a bid to save Balkan Kazan for what was expected to be a breezy final phase, Selvam stepped off the gas a bit in the third phase which gave Al Marri the chance to lay down his challenge. Al Marri rode at 26.49kph as opposed to the 24.81kph that Selvam went and the result was obvious as the Emirati went to the top of the leaderboard, with Saif Al Mazrui securing second yet again.
Al Marri had distanced himself from the chasing pack and zipped through the final 18km phase with Abhsik Coutillas galloping at a speed of 32.36kph. Al Mazrui’s elimination due to his partners irregular gait helped Selvam secure a deserved second place on the podium ahead of Sheikh Rashid, who himself had done well to work his way into third after dropping from fourth to 21st at the end of the second phase. In the last phase he moved up two spots from fifth. Al Marri was full of praise for his Abhsik Coutillas and said: “My horse performed outstandingly and though we were well off the pace he feared nothing and improved as the race went on to win. “I dedicate this victory to HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, who is also the patron of F3 Stables.”
Secretary General of the UAE ERF, Dr Ghanem Al Hajri and Mohammed Essa Al Adhab, the General Manager of Dubai Racing Club, presented the winners with the trophies. Al Adhab said: “This race is one of the most competitive races and the riders really fought hard to win. “There are some really professional endurance riding teams in the UAE and these have done a fantastic job.”