A slice of history repeated itself for Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri at Dubai International Endurance City (DIEC) in Seih Al Salam as his runnerup finish in the Gamilati Cup for Mares preceded his massive victory in the 160km HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup.
Both rides were part of the 2022 HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Festival which drew to a close last Saturday. And F3 Stables’ rider Al Marri would have had a throwback to three years in the past when he followed up his second in the Gamilati by winning the feature event of the festival.
Al Marri is among the elite when it comes to endurance riding worldwide, having truly burst onto the scene when he won the showpiece CEI3* 160km competition at the HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum UK Festival in August 2018. Last week at DIEC, he triumphed aboard the Khalifa Ghanim Al Marri-schooled Castlebar Corsair, having clocked six hours 29 minutes and 53 seconds (6:29:53) and registered an average speed of 24.62kph over the five phases the race had been broken down into.
A total of 153 rider horse pairs set out to tackle the gruelling distance on a course that had gotten all the more difficult to negotiate on account of the hot and humid conditions. Only 61 were passed fit and deemed to have completed the ride, which was organised by Dubai Racing Club (DRC) and presented by Emaar Properties.
It was tensely c o n t e s t e d with second placed C a t a l i n a Bastons of A r g e n t i n a , riding Chassagne De Sommant for Jumeirah Stables, beaten into the r u n n e r - u p p o s i t i o n by four seconds, having clocked 6:29:57. And she might have considered herself lucky not to have been relegated to third with her last phase push ensuring she finished six seconds quicker than third placed M7 Endurance Stables’ rider-horse pairing of Rashed Ahmad Al Ketbi and At Dial Range Tex, who were timed at 6:30:03.
Al Marri started the day placed 13th after the 40km first loop during which Al Reef Stables’ Rashed Hamoud Al Junaibi asserted himself on the back of El Thaur Of Gredos. But it always seemed a ride where the lead would be changing hands constantly and Al Junaibi made way over the 35km second loop for Seeh Al Salam 2 Stables’ Maitha Obaid Al Kaabi to take over the summit partnering Celsar Latif.
During the second loop Al Marri managed to climb up a spot on the leaderboard and went into the third loop, which was also over 35km, with the 12th best time. And he and Castlebar Corsair managed to do themselves a favour during their time in the dunes moving up the rung considerably to reach fourth.
Meanwhile, at the top, F3-1 Stables’ Buthaina Al Redha on Chaman De La Folie became the third to claim pole. She moved a spot up during the first two loops from third to second, but venturing out for the fourth she failed to keep her mount’s vitals within required parameters and witnessed expulsion from the race on account of metabolic grounds.
That allowed Zayed Ahmad Khalifa of TNT Private Stables on Partugalets to go into the final phase over 20km as the leader. Al Marri did not pick up enough pace during the fourth loop and dropped a place to fifth from where he would make his bid in the final loop. But saving his and Castlebar Corsair’s best for last was definitely a good idea as the tactical move allowed them to have plenty in the tank for their final push.
Amidst heightening urgency, the pace quickened forcing Zayed out of the fray after partner Partugalets was deemed to have returned with an irregular gait. That allowed Al Marri to get his foot in the door and he was happy to pounce on the opportunity. Passing others in front of him, he was able to win, albeit narrowly with Bastons four seconds behind in second and Al Ketbi a further six back in third.
It was a brilliant performance from Al Marri, who was second in the Gamilati Cup for Mares, when riding JM Josefina, also owned by F3 Stables. The pair clocked 4:06:02 in the race, and were a mere two seconds behind M7 Endurance Stables’ winning pair of Suhail Ali Al Ghailani and Cevenne Larzac, who sealed victory with a time of 4:06:00. Finishing third was another F3 Stables’ pairing, Abdullah Ali Alamri, who completed the ride aboard Mazyoona in 4:10:50.