SPAIN’S LADY RIDER Eulalia Gonzalez Guardia managed to thwart the advances of a host of top Emirati riders and win the HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup, the feature event of the annual endurance riding festival bearing the name of the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Held over a 160km distance at Dubai International Endurance City the ride had been broken down into five loops. A total of 161 participated in the event, but a mere 77 were deemed to have finished the gruelling ride on the outskirts of Dubai.
And Guardia found herself topping that list at the end as she posted the quickest time aboard Bilal De La Belange owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s M7-2 Endurance Stables. Guardia and her 10yo gelded partner completed the ride in a time of six hours 22 minutes and 48 seconds, going about their business at an average speed of 25.08kph.
After 160km of competition, their time proved to be just a second quicker than that of second placed Saeed Hamoud Al Khayari, who clocked 6:22:49 on the back of the M7 Endurance Stablesowned Cachou. Al Khayari, in turn, was fractions of a second quicker than MRM Stables’ Saif Ahmed Al Mazrouei, who was eventually deemed to have clocked the same time aboard Magic Glenn Tamar.
Al Khayari was dominant during the first loop over 40km and showed the way aboard his 9yo gelded partner, with Guardia a mere :43s behind in 14th place. With the quality of horses and riders vying in the fray, competition was bound to be of the highest quality and Al Khayari dropping his speed marginally during the 35km second loop witnessed his dethroning by Indian rider Amjad Ali Hasmat Khan, who rode Emaar Endurance Stables’ Chanice Du Tilleu 10.
Al Khayari slipped to third and then fifth as Khan managed to hold on to his lead during the third loop which was also contested over 35km. On the other hand, Guardia managed to climb up the rankings from 14th to seventh and retained seventh spot going into the fourth loop over 30km.
As tactics came into play with horses needing to run within preset parameters, the pace reduced drastically during the 30km fourth loop. That brought Guardia to the forefront. She was now the leader with Jumeirah Stables’ pair of Hamdan Ahmed Al Marri and Quotien Persky merely :01s behind in second.
Al Khayari, meanwhile, had slipped from third to fifth and was tenth going into the final loop over 20km, a little over two minutes behind. In a bid to make one last attempt at snatching the title off Guardia, Al Khayari monumentally increased his riding speed aboard Cachou from 21.93kph to 32.36kph, but it wasn’t enough as he finished :01s short. During the last loop Guardia went from 22.53kph to 30.65kph.
Al Mazrouei moved into third from fifth. Al Marri finished 12th, while Khan was eliminated after his mount returned with an irregular gait at the end of the fourth loop. Champion Guardia had placed third in the 120km Ladies event last week.
The ride was also part of the festival and won by Argentina’s Delfina Maria Gauthier, who rode Zaizoom for M7 Endurance Stables. Al Khayari failed to find that extra bit of luck in the Gamilati Endurance Ride for Mares event held the following day over a 120km trip when he finished the runner-up a second time in as many days.
The four loop event was won by Suhail Ali Al Ghailani, who posted the fractionally quicker time of 4:18:12 aboard Cevenne Larzac, a 9yo owned by M7 Endurance Stables. Al Khayari and his M7-2-owned mount were deemed to have crossed the finish at an identical time, but after fractions came into question, the rider was forced to settle for second yet again.
Finishing third was Jumeirah Stables’ pair of Khalaf Ahmad Al Ghaith and Breha De Luc St Amans, the pair rounding off the podium spots with 4:18:28.
Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmouk Al Maktoum, newly appointed chairman of the board of Dubai Equestrian Club, Major General Dr Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, president of the Emirates Equestrian Federation, Dr Ghanem Al Hajri, secretary general of the Emirates Equestrian Federation, Major General Expert Mohammed Issa Al Adhab, member of the board of directors and general manager of the Dubai Equestrian Club and Patrick Aoun, the regional brand manager of Longines, were present during the prize giving ceremony.
Al Adhab said: “The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Festival has witnessed top class action over the years and this year too some of the best riders and horses participated in the event. “The competition was fierce with all of the stables vying hard in each of the events and we would like to thank HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, for their support in hosting this event, which is one of the most sought-after endurance events in the world.”