ENDURANCE RIDING has had some truly scintillating climaxes and Ahmad Saleh Al Shehhi’s classy victory in the HH The President of the UAE Cup at Emirates International Endurance Village at Al Wathba is incomplete without mention of the heroics of the rider who came agonisingly close in his bid.
Step in Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri, who did not give up until the end holding on to belief he could somehow slip out from the jaws of defeat. Riding F3 Stables-owned Lockelea Starwood Comet, Al Marri failed in his bid by a mere two seconds as he clocked six hours, nine minutes and ten seconds (6:09:10) compared to the 6:09:08 Al Shehhi stopped the clock at when riding Arizona De Sau, trained by Salman Ali Al Sabri for Al Bawadi Stables.
The 160km ride that was held over six phases and sponsored by Emirates International Endurance Village saw a total of 396 rider horse pairs start out in the wee hours of Sunday morning. At the end of the day, just 154 were deemed to have completed the ride, with 242 eliminated during the course of the six phases.
Al Shehhi kept himself close to the summit and progressed steadily except during the fourth loop where he dropped a few places, only to regain ground immediately before making his attempt for glory. He began the day in sixth after the 40km first loop with Al Wathba Stables’ rider Abdulla Ali Al Jahoori seizing the initiative on the back of Cha Eclipse.
Al Shehhi was :5:23 behind, but moved up two spots to fourth after Al Jahoori retired his mount during the second loop over 28km, which saw the lead pass on to Al Wathba Stables’ teammate Waad Nadim on Fiador AP. The Lebanese female rider failed to hold on to the lead during the 28km third loop and vacated the summit for Al Reef Al Ain Stables’ Mayed Ahmad Ahli on Mariu Nahala.
Ahli and his mount were looking good to go all the way as they dominated the next two phases – fourth and the fifth spanning 24km and 20km respectively – with the rest still giving chase. Al Shehhi moved up to third at the end of the third loop, but a further tactical reduction of speed saw him fall down the rung to eighth.
It would help him freshen up Arizona De Sau for the final two loops and he made up ground quickly as Ahli held on tightly. Ahli held a :17 lead going into the final loop over 20km from Al Maghaweer Stables 2’s Issa Radhawan Al Gheilani and his mount Etna De Larchat AA. But with the rest of the prospects applying pressure his bid to go all out on Mariu Nahala fell flat on its face as his mount was deemed unfit to be passed at the end of the final loop after failing to recover on metabolic grounds.
That opened the door for the rest of the field with Al Shehhi pouncing on the opportunity. However, with numerous others still in the fray he had to endure a few tense moments, particularly from Al Marri who was closing in strongly but only just failed in the end. Al Marri did well all along and was a picture of consistency, showing stability as he moved up the ranks.
He started the day in 56th and was 37th at the end of the second loop. Another big leap forward saw him move to 21st and then 14th before he was able to take aim for the podium from 11th. Saif Ahmed Al Mazrouei was a bit inconsistent, but the MRM Stables’ rider did well to finish third on the back of Magic Glenn Tamar with a time of 6:09:53.
Omar Mohammed Al Neyadi, riding Al Wathba Stables’ Akasha Flowing Free was fourth with 6:12:24 on the clock, while fifth placed F3 Stables’ rider Saeed Ahmad Al Harbi was timed at 6:12:41 on Castlebar Cadabra. The winners were crowned by Major General Dr Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, president of the UAE Equestrian & Racing Federation, Sheikh Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Thani, president of the Endurance Racing Club in Qatar, Musallem Al Ameri, director general of the Emirates International Endurance Village, and Mohammed Al Hadrami, director of events at Emirates International Endurance Village.