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Silver lining at World Equestrian Games

By Allaam Ousman

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is not only a visionary leader but an athlete who believes in attaining Olympian heights of glory.

If the 15th running of the Dubai World Cup staged for the first time on Meydan circuit on March 27 2010 was a dream come true, leading the country to glory at the World Equestrian Games last year was another feather in his growing list of sporting achievements.
Riding Ciel Oriental, Sheikh Mohammed, was the cynosure of all eyes as he made a triumphant return to international competition to stretch the eventual winner Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton of Spain all the way in the gruelling 160km competition in Kentucky, USA.
Sheikh Mohammed bagged the individual silver medal and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, finished in third position to earn a bronze medal. The UAE team inspired by the Ruler of Dubai also won the team gold at the Olympics of endurance racing.
As preparation for the World Endurance Games, Sheikh Mohammed led the UAE team to victory in the 160km Stars Endurance race at Austin Park in Britain.
Meydan, the iconic landmark of Dubai is a monument to the vision of a man whose passion for horse racing brought together the best thoroughbreds to compete for the richest prize money.
“I wanted a place in the middle where everybody could come, and it was a dream and I told my people… my team that I wanted a world-class racetrack. We started racing and it was great starting with the winner Segar and another 14 winners from different places, and it was a great success. That was the start of the vision,” Sheikh Mohammed told an interviewer on the eve of the Dubai World Cup which was raced on the Tapeta surface for the first time.
Meydan is a new practical proof of the spirit of challenge that has long characterised Dubai, said Sheikh Mohammed, a meeting place not only for horse racing but an integrated model that combines sport, entertainment and investment.
Having attended a number of horse races in different parts of the world, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries, the idea of Meydan was to bring together all who are interested in this sport.
Riding horses has been a part of his life from childhood and Meydan was also a way of bringing the horses back home for the Dubai Ruler.
“I am very proud to see people coming here from all corners of the world to participate and take each other on. That's why, I am a winner here when everybody comes. It doesn't matter who wins or loses, we want to share the winning with everybody,” he said of the $6 million Dubai World Cup race.
When Sheikh Mohammed looks at Meydan, he mirrors himself as an athlete and wants others to embrace his vision.
Having been drawn to horse racing like a duck to water from a young age, Sheikh Mohammed is the inspiration and driving force behind Godolphin, which he has developed into the world’s leading international horseracing entity.
While Sheikh Mohammed’s personal colours are still seen on racetracks around the world, these days it is the royal blue silks of Godolphin with which he is most readily associated.
With Sheikh Mohammed making the key decisions, Godolphin has given the sport of horseracing some truly breathtaking performers - Lammtarra, Daylami, Fantastic Light, Street Cry, Sulamani, Dubawi and Ramonti among them.
Godolphin’s greatest horse, and Sheikh Mohammed’s personal favourite, was the magnificent Dubai Millennium, who won nine of his 10 starts including a stunning victory in the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup, in 2000.
Significantly, Godolphin notched the 200th winner of the year when Mastery triumphed in the Group One Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin, Hong Kong in December continuing the success story of Sheikh Mohammed.