The credentials of the UAE as one of the top distance riding nations in the region and the world was highlighted by a top ten finish at the CEI 2* 120km The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup at Al Ula in Saudi Arabia last week. Salem Hamad Al Kitbi riding M7 Endurance Stables’ Blakeridge Indigo won with a time of 4 hours 25 minutes and 43 seconds. The pair rode at an average speed of 27.1kph over the four loops to finish fractions of a second ahead of Abdullah Ghanem Al Marri of F3 Stables, who was aboard Wamid, with MRM Stables' rider Saif Ahmed Al Mazrouei placing third on the back of Razorback Mechano with time of 4:25:44.
HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, witnessed the crowning of the Emirati riders and congratulated The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the successful organisation of the endurance championship as part of the new comprehensive overhaul in many sectors thanks to Vision 2030. “We are very pleased by the invitation extended to us from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to come and compete here and we were very touched by how welcoming the crowd was towards us and our people.
We are happy to come and see this beautiful area,” Sheikh Mohammed told Saudi television. HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, also attended the race. “The beautiful, natural desert scene in this area cannot be compared to any other place and it is wonderful that the Saudi government is taking care of this area,” Sheikh Hamdan said. Al Kitbi started off well and with the lead after the 35km first phase. He was chased by two Saudi riders at the time, Mohammed Ali Allazam and Abdulwahab Al Harbi, but both local riders dropped out of contention and were replaced by Emiratis.
Al Kitbi increased his riding speed during the 33km second loop and continued his domination as he held on to the top at the halfway mark. With two more loops left and 52km of surface yet to be covered, Al Kitbi decided to rein in Blakeridge Indigo, trained by Mohammed Ali Al Subousi. He lowered his riding speed a bit which allowed F3 Stables' rider Abdullah Ghanim Al Marri aboard Wamid to take temporary charge of the race. Al Kitbi was off the pace by just 34 seconds and knew he had to revert back to a higher pace if he was to win; and when he asked Blakeridge Indigo to step it up by nearly 6kph, the horse responded perfectly, which brought the pair home ahead of the rest by the tiniest of margins.
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup was also attended by Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Prince of Medina Region; Sheikh Shakhbout bin Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Khalifa Saeed Suleiman, director general of Dubai Protocol and Hospitality Department; Dr Ahmad Nasser Al Raisi, chairman of the Emirates Equestrian Federation; and Saeed Humaid Al Tayer, chairman of Meydan. More than 200 riders from 12 countries, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Spain, Sudan, UAE and Uruguay participated in the race, which was held as part of the ‘Winter at Tantora’ festival. Winter at Tantora is a cultural festival held in the city of Al Ula, an ancient city known for its rock monuments. A total of 76 riders from the initial start list managed to complete the gruelling ride.