GLOBAL INTEREST in distance riding events in the UAE became obvious at the HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup Festival with the three rides over the first weekend of the competition being shared among a rider each from Ireland, South Africa and the UAE. The festival culminates next weekend with the showpiece CEI*** 160km HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup, but if last week’s action was anything to go by then the Dubai International Endurance City is sure to turn into a tactical battlefield during the two day event starting 4 January.
Getting back to what happened last week, Amy Louise McAuley, Jessica Mostert and Abdulrahman Saeed Al Ghailani all picked up valuable prizes for winning the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Ladies), Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Pvt Stables) and CEN 120km Gamilati Endurance Cup for Mares rides respectively. The level of competition was severe with a fraction of a second separating McAuley from her F3 Stables' teammate Cecilia Garcia of Uruguay in the Ladies ride, and Al Wathba Stables' rider Al Ghailani completing the Gamilati ride ten seconds quicker than countryman Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri, who rode for F3 Stables.
Zabeel Stables' rider Mostert’s victory was a tad comfortable in the sense that she was a little under two minutes ahead of Ibrahim Mohammed Al Hammadi in the Private Stables event on the second day of the competition. The Gamilati ride is known to produce keen contests and things played according to script with an ever changing leaderboard eventually finishing with Al Ghailani at the summit. Riding Almendra JV, a 9yo owned by Al Wathba Stables, at an average speed of 28.01kph, the Emirati led a UAE 1-2-3 as he completed the ride in 4 hours 17 minutes and 2 seconds, a mere ten seconds ahead of second placed compatriot Al Marri, who was home in 4:17:12 on the back of Jubane Tiger Lily belonging to F3 Stables.
Sheikh Hamed, third on the back of M7's Arivederci De Sommant, was a little over a minute adrift in 4:18:18. Al Ghailani was placed sixth at the end of the first phase over 40km and then moved up one place over the second phase, spanning 35km, as he increased his riding speed. He was then asked to drop his speed in the third loop over 27km which correspondingly witnessed him dropping four places to ninth going into the final 18km loop. The calculation paid off however as he increased his riding speed by more than 10kph from 25.42 to 35.86 in the final phase which saw him record a time that was ten seconds quicker than Al Marri, who himself had done well to work his way to second after starting at 29th, then consistently moving up to 13th and eighth.
Al Ghailani was in a class of his own and claimed he rode according to a plan laid down by trainer Majed Khalfan Al Jahouri. “It was always going to be difficult, but we knew what needed to be done from the start and it was merely down to saving the horse for the final loop. We did that and victory was ours,” Al Ghailani said. “I have won many endurance events before in the UAE but this is my first victory in Dubai and it’s a great feeling to win such a prestigious competition.” The HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup Ladies ride witnessed McAuley working her way up from 14th to seventh to third before snatching the honours from Garcia, who had led throughout, in the final loop.
McAuley and her ride Tom Jones TE were adjudged winners by the further fractions that worked in their favour, even as F3 Stables' teammate Garcia aboard Toufka La Majorie clocked the same official time of 4:11:47. In third place with 4:12:48 was Martina Spelanzon riding M7 Endurance Stables’ Cardenal R. McAuley, who also placed fourth in the Gamilati ride, said: “I didn’t expect to win because of the competitiveness in the ride, but things went well and we have a great team behind us that really makes things possible.” The CEN 119km HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup for Private Stables was won by Jessica Mostert relatively easily when compared to the above nerve racking affairs.
Riding Zabeel Stables’ RO Hamlet at an average speed of 33.16kph, the pair were home in a time of 4:17:08. Ibrahim Mohammed Al Hammadi, riding Mas Endurance Stables’ Aglae De Kerdanet, clocked 4:18:59 as he signed in at second, with Layla Mohammed Al Marzooqi, aboard Al Kamda Endurance Stables’ Zagarra, taking third with a time of 4:21:59 Mohammed Essa Al Adhab, the general manager of Dubai Equestrian Club, said: “These are prized rides and the festival kicked off with a really hard fought contest in the Ladies ride and now these other competitions have also proven that this is a title everyone wants to win. Even the main 160km ride next week is bound to be a very competitive one with all the best riders from the UAE and overseas vying to win the top prize.”