Two days, two exciting rides, two exciting finishes. That’s the way the Sheikha Fatma bint Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Ladies Cup and Sheikh Mohammed bin Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Private Owners rides finished. And at the end of the first and second day, taking top spot on the respective podiums at the Emirates International Endurance Village in Al Wathba, were Uruguay’s Estefany Solange Gonzalez and the UAE’s Abdul Rahman Al Ghailani. Both riders had to work hard to carve their way to the top, with Gonzalez riding Al Jazeera 1 Stables’ Saabh at an average speed of 29.07kph over the four stages to win the Ladies Cup with a time of 3 hours 26 minutes and 20 seconds.
Al Ghailani on the other hand too had his work cut out aboard Enjaz Private Stables’ JM Josefina, the pair nicking the ride with a time of 3:35:24 after registering an average speed of 27.85kph. Coming to the Ladies Cup which was held a day earlier on 22 February, Gonzalez started out with the 21st quickest time after the first phase where the Argentine Camila Rodriguez led aboard Seeh Al Salaam Stables’ El Jamani Silvern Dawid. Gonzalez may have been far behind but in terms of time, she was just a minute and 11 seconds off the pace. The lead changed hands over the second phase and another Argentine rider, Martina Spelanzon of M7 Endurance Stables seized the initiative as she moved to the top from eighth, which was filled by Gonzalez.
Spelanzon held onto the summit at the end of the third phase, but Gonzalez, who managed to move into second, had cut the deficit down to 28 seconds from 37. The Uruguayan was now well within reach and eased her way to the top as Spelanzon dropped her pace and ended up finishing ninth. Gonzalez had upped her speed marginally and though the rest of her rivals also quickened up, it was enough to ensure she won, albeit by a narrow nine seconds from Nadia Solange Fernandez, who rode Al Shababi Endurance Stables’ Sundance across the finish in a time of 3:26:29. In third place was UAE’s Haya Mohammed Al Shanqiti, who was a further second adrift aboard Al Wathba Stables’ Eo Raqusua.
It turned out to be much the same script in the Private Owners’ ride, with Al Ghailani starting out at 19th and working his way up to second going into the final loop. Starting out, the Emirati rider was :3:42s behind leader Ana Cecilia Garcia Pereira at the end of the first phase. He moved up nine spots to tenth as the lead changed hands during the second phase and France’s Tiffany Nicolas took over from Pereira. Al Ghailani was now :2:11s behind. Over the third phase, Al Ghailani gained a lot of ground, climbing up to second and just 36 seconds behind new leader Joaquin Stirling of Uruguay.
The last phase saw him up his speed yet again and he stormed past Stirling to take the top spot and win by 36 seconds from Emirati compatriot Abdulla Mubarak Al Khyeli. Al Ghailani finished with a time of 3:35:24, while Al Khyeli, riding Al Khaili Private Stables’ Misty Heights Romance was clocked at 3:36:00. Frenchwoman Nicolas placed third on Bin Ham Private Stables’ O Bajan Ricsi with a time of 3:38:02, while Stirling and his ride Ascot De Montfluq, belonging to Al Ain Endurance Stables, were fourth with a time of 3:41:42. In fifth place a further two seconds adrift was Indian rider, Aidaan Singh aboard Enjaz Private Stables’ Echo Aladin.