EMIRATI riders and their Uruguay counterparts shared the honours down the middle at last week’s HH Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan Endurance Festival at Emirates International Endurance Village at Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi, participants from each of the nations winning two of the four categories.
When compared in terms of importance, though, you’d have to label the UAE as the better of the two for having won the feature event. Abdullah Ghanim Al Marri won said event contested over a 160km six loop course, while Shamsa Mohammed Al Mutawa made it two wins for the home nation with success in the 101.52km Ladies Cup.
As far as the Uruguayans were concerned, Walter Hernandez claimed the Private Owners Cup over 101.52km and Bryan Ferreira won the South American nation the 112.47km Junior & Young Riders event. Starting with the feature 162.32km event, Al Marri partnered Cha Al Pacino to victory with a time of six hours 41 minutes and 21 seconds, having registered an average speed of 24.27kph in the process.
Al Marri had last won the DIEC 120km Seeh Al Salam Endurance Challenge in March 2021 and would have been hungry to assert himself after finding no luck this season. And he began the first day placed ninth after the first loop spanning 30.3km where India’s Bhawani Singh aboard Al Reef Ajban Stables’ Prince Kadeem Spa found himself at the forefront of affairs.
Singh held sway over the 30km second loop too, with Al Marri moving up five spots to fourth. And the Indian rider kept the lead going into the second day, as he held on to the summit at the end of the third loop spanning 20.07km. The second day’s action saw Sureshkumar Balakrishnan taking over as leader at the end of the fourth loop over 30.3km.
Riding for Al Nasr 2 Endurance Stables, Balakrishnan partnered ASG Puesto, with the pair second over the first two loops and then dropping a spot to third from where they started the second day. Taking over might have been easy, but holding on definitely was not as Al Marri decided to make his move.
The Emirati had moved into second over the third loop and dropped a spot on tactical grounds during the fourth loop on the second day. But he recovered well during the fifth phase over 31.3km to go straight up the rung to the top. Al Marri held a slender lead going into the final loop over 20.35km, with Saeed Hamoud Al Khayari riding SS Private Stables’ Majic Richardo just three seconds behind.
However, in the end with things under control Al Marri was able to increase his speed up substantially during the final loop and won with five seconds to spare, M7 Stables’ Saeed Ahmad Al Shamsi moving into second on Diskuys Kerdavid (6:42:26). Al Khayari eventually finished third with a time of 6:43:32.
Al Mutawa had it relatively easier in the Ladies Ride which she won with Wacil El Darike, the pair clocking 3:49:05 to win for Al Maghaweer Stables. Al Mutawa and her partner were placed fifth at the end of the first loop but went straight to the top and remained there through the rest of the loops to win.
It was a bit nervy at the end with five seconds separating them from runner-up finishers Camille Coulomb of France who rode Julio Delssanne for Seeh Al Salam Stables. Finishing third was Coulomb’s teammate Nesreen Khasro Khaled of the Comoros Islands aboard Cabalistik Larzac. Walter Hernandez won the Private Owners competition for Al Ain Endurance Stables with SM Real, the pair clocking 3:55:49.
Hernandez was :10 quicker than compatriot and teammate Federico Ferber Perez, who was timed at 3:55:59 on HC Shakira. Third place went to Brazilian female rider Monica Graziano, who completed the ride with Al Abbar Farms-owned Fransis Kaya in 4:01:47.
The Junior & Young Riders Cup was contested over a 112.47km trip and saw Bryan Ferreira with M7 Endurance Stables’ Gorosti Pagadi edging Al Maghaweer Stables’ pair of Hazza Jumaa Al Hamadi and JM Maori by a second. Ferreira clocked a winning time of 4:36:42. Al Bararri Stables’ Sultan Mohammed Abbas was a distant third on Shenique 10 with 4:56:13 on the clock.