STEELY DETERMINATION saw Naroa Calvo Ibanez clinch a thrilling victory aboard SS Private Stables-owned Al Muhalhal in the Emirates Championship at Al Wathba last week. The FEI CEI** 120km endurance ride, hosted by the Emirates International Endurance Village, was divided into four stages and witnessed the participation of 107 riders. And Spaniard Ibanez was in fine form aboard the 14yo gelding trained by Sultan Ali Sultan Al Subousi, the pair recording an average speed of 27.34kph over the four stages and completing the ride with a time of 4 hours 23 minutes and 20 seconds, which was just a second better than Emirati rider Ahmed Ali Hassan Al Marzooqi, who rode Hadaybit Asalem 2 Endurance Stables-owned Girilambone Amahl.
In third place with a time of 4:25:55, was Argentina’s Martina Spelanzon, aboard Razna Milin Riant owned by M7 Endurance Stables. Ibanez was utterly dominant during the ride as she took up the lead at the end of the second phase and held on until the end to win by the slimmest of margins. South Africa’s Jessica Mostert led at the end of the first loop over 40km, with Ibanez down in fifth place, a good 0:2:17 off the pace. While Mostert reduced her speed in the second loop over 35km, Ibanez revved up a bit to snatch the lead and go five seconds clear of Spelanzon, who maintained her hold on second spot. The third loop over 25km saw Ibanez continue at the summit, with Al Marzooqi taking over second place from Spelanzon.
Al Marzooqi was eight seconds off the pace and well within striking range, but as he increased the pace, Ibanez did the same and in the end it turned out to be a highly competitive finish, with Ibanez just a second ahead of Emirati Al Marzooqi. Two other local riders, Ahmed Ali Saeed Al Subousi and Mohammed Saeed Al Faresi, filled the fourth and fifth spots respectively. Riding Shataans Illusion belonging to Nad Al Sheba Stables 2, Al Subousi clocked 4:26:22, while Al Faresi, who rode MRM Stables-owned Persichems La Majorie, was timed at 4:36:30. Adnan Sultan Al Nuaimi, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and Lara Sawaya, the executive director of the HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival, were present at the prize giving ceremony.