Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri of Nad Al Sheba Stables became the youngest winner of the prestigious His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup CEI*** 160km race when he spurred his mount Shardell Alaadeen to victory at the Dubai International Endurance City on Saturday.
The 17-year-old UAE rider rallied from behind in the final loop to triumph by 27 seconds over Bahrain's Ahmed Abdulla Al Hazza in a thrilling finish to a gruelling challenge in the desert.
Third place went to Mohammed Ahmed Hassan Al Abbar of the UAE as he rode the 14-year-old mare Kumait for Al Aasfa Limited to finish 8 minutes and 55 seconds behind the winner.
Organised and hosted by the Dubai Equestrian Club, the fifth running of the His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup was presented by Longines, the official timekeeper of Meydan Group, and supported by Emirates Airline, official airline of Meydan Group.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, presented the awards.
A field of 121 international riders, representing 18 countries, competed in the event that began at 7am at the Dubai International Endurance City.
Prominent riders from the UAE included Sheikh Hamdan, who last month successfully guided the UAE Endurance Team to a thrilling gold medal victory in the 12th Pan Arab Games held in Qatar.
Also contesting the event were Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Juma Al Maktoum, Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmook al Maktoum and Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum.
The prestigious competition, that annually serves as the highlight of the Dubai endurance season was held for horses seven years old and above and featured five loops that included: 40km, 36km, 33km, 32km and 19km.
Ahmed Abdulla Al Hazza of the Royal Endurance Team of Bahrain, aboard the 10-year-old gelding Picaflor, led the trio out of the gate and was followed a brief 16 seconds behind by the UAE’s Sultan Ahmed Al Baloushi.
The eventual winner, Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri was faced by a significant challenge in the final loop as he started another one minute and 34 seconds back and was forced make up the difference in the 19km loop.
Al Marri had maintained a consistent pace throughout each loop of the ride with placements of fifth, second, second and fifth.
“This is the biggest win of my riding experience. I thank His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for hosting this race and the Crown Prince (of Dubai) Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for his support and his competition in racing in today’s event," said an elated Al Marri.
“It was a very fast pace in the final loop so I could take the lead. No one enters a race that is this big and thinks they can win; you only hope you can win. My hopes came true today,” he added.
As part of the Meydan Group, the Dubai Equestrian Club (DEC) annually organises and hosts quality equestrian sports for the people of Dubai, and the UAE, in the disciplines of Endurance, Dressage, Showjumping and Eventing.
Saeed Humaid Al Tayer, Chairman of Meydan Group said: “We are proud to offer this event to the world of endurance riding and pleased with the success of today’s event. We are committed to equestrian sports and with the help of our partners, Longines and Emirates Airline, and the expertise of the competitors this race grows in popularity and excitement.”
Mohammed Essa Al Adhab, Deputy General Manager of the Dubai Equestrian Club said: “This was one of the most thrilling finishes in the history of the His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup. We thank our presenting sponsor Longines and our supporting partner Emirates Airline for their assistance in making this such a successful competition. This race is a tribute to our cultural connection to the horse. Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri winning this event as a 17-year-old is proof that we are passing on this sport as part of the legacy of the UAE.”
In winning the His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup, Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri was awarded an elegant Longines Column-Wheel Chronograph Gold timepiece.