ATERRIFIC team performance witnessed M7 Endurance Stables romping to glory in two of the four rides that were held as part of the Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Festival at Dubai International Endurance City. Riders from M7 not only won, but clinched the top two podium spots in both the feature Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Cup as well as the Dubai Crown Prince Cup for Ladies event. Both competitions were contested over 119km, were broken down into four loops and won by horses trained by Mohammed Ahmed Al Subose.
Ace Emirati rider Salem Hamad Al Kitbi rode Willowmere Encore to success in the feature Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Cup, while the Ladies’ event was won by Spain’s Bruna Pujols Aumatell with Akram De Flauzins.
The showpiece event was held as the opener to the four day Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Festival on Saturday with superb teamwork the highlight as Al Ketbi, winner of the 160km Longines FEI World Championship in May, and Willowmere Encore registered an average speed of 29.24kph to win with a combined time of four hours, four minutes and nine seconds, which was fractions lesser than their second placed teammates, Suhail Ali Al Ghailani and his mount Cevenne Larzac, who were clocked at 4:04:10.
While the M7 Endurance Stables’ pair finished within a second of each other, F3 Stables’ Saeed Ahmad Al Harbi’s third place on Castlebar Corsair, a further 33s behind, after his dethroning from the top during the final loop showed the race was keenly contested all the way to the finish.
Al Ketbi and his 14yo partner started the ride in fifth, with MRM Stables’ Khalfan Juma Beljafla at the helm of affairs on Siam Du Barthas after the 40km first loop. Al Ketbi was a little under a minute behind at the time and managed to cut the deficit to 12s during the course of the second loop over 32km which saw the lead pass on to Rashed Hamoud Al Junaibi on the back of the Al Reef Ash-owned El Thaur Of Gredos.
Al Junaibi failed to hold on to the initiative over the third loop spanning 27km and saw him yield his position to F3 Stables’ Al Harbi, who had turned on the heat during the course of the third loop as he prepared for what would have been a fine success for the host team. Meanwhile, Al Kitbi had placed third after the second loop and with a tactical reduction of speed had dropped to one more spot over the third.
He was fourth, 12s behind, heading into the final sprint loop over 20km, but Willowmere Encore had plenty left in the tank and despite a hard ride the gelding showed great endurance to climb up the rung quickly and overtake not just Al Harbi, but teammates Al Ghailani as well by a mere fraction of a second.
Al Harbi would have felt disappointed of being robbed of glory in the final moments of the race, but M7 Endurance Stables were over the moon with the result. Runner-up Al Ghailani rode consistently throughout the ride and was second over the first two loops and contested the last quarter from third after moving down a spot.
Al Harbi on the other hand would have found solace in the fact he was able to finish on the podium after starting what was a highly competitive race in sixteenth. It was more or less a similar story in the Ladies’ ride where Aumatell made her bid for glory in the fourth and final loop and managed to ride home fractions quicker than her M7 Endurance Stables teammate Cecilia Garcia.
Aumatell and Akram De Flauzins were clocked at 4:19:41 after registering an average speed of 29.04kph, with Garcia and her mount Al Sail stopping the timer at 4:19:42. Aumatell started the day in third and held on to her spot on the leaderboard as the lead changed hands with Al Bawadi Stables’ Mira Jasim Al Ansaari on Beit Jann Al Ain ceding the advantage to F3 Stables’ rider-horse pair of Maria Santina Zunino and Ayouf La Lizonne.
The latter took over during the second loop and had the lead heading into the final loop with second placed Aumatell 10s behind. Aumatell rode quicker during the final loop, which saw her comfortably take over from Zunino and cross the finish alongside teammate Garcia, who worked her way into contention having started the first loop in fifteenth and then dropped three spots to 18. Garcia was fourth going into the final loop and would have welcomed second, but that might not have been the case for Zunino who was relegated to third.