Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Mohammed?s Orkara wins Florac

By A Correspondent

4 July 2005

DUBAI ? Orkara, bred and owned by General Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence, with Katie Smith aboard won the Florac endurance ride in France.

Florac, one of the oldest rides in France dating back to 1976, is considered by many as the most difficult one in Europe.

Orkara, sired by Bakara, a full brother to Cheri Bibi the sire of Bengali D?Albert, a brilliant Arabian racehorse owned by Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance and Industry.

Orkara, a nine-year-old pure Arabian bay gelding, started his life as a racehorse trained by Bill Smith in the UK. He achieved moderate success on the racetrack which included a win at Stratford (UK) in 2001. Smith describes him as a very good looking horse beautifully proportioned but a ruffian and arrogant and aggressive horse not an easy ride.

When his racing days ended Smith sent him to Pierre Morvan in France for endurance training. In 2004 he completed a 120km ride at a very slow pace then in April this year Orkara finished sixth with Morvan over 160km at Le Vigan in France.

Smith said this win was much unexpected as the horse had been entered just to see if he could cope with the extremely tough conditions.

It was Smith?s daughter Katie that triumphed on Orkara, entering the record books as the first British rider to win Florac in its 30 year history. Smith is a talented rider having won major events in three equestrian spheres Arabian Flat racing, Hunter showing and endurance on a global scale. This world famous French ride that was motivated by the Tevis, the Mother of Endurance, in 1984 Florac was the venue of the first European Championship. It is currently organised by a newly-formed organisation, Association Equestrian Lozere Endurance (LEE) and W?rsan Stables Abu Dhabi were one of the major sponsors.

Orkara true to form was aggressive from the start where he tried his best to dislodge Katie. They were in the leading trio from 77 entries over the first stage of 33.5km ridden by the light of the moon. Katie and Orkara moved into pole position over the second stage of 43.3km the longest which included the climb to the summit of Mount Aiguoal.

They set out with a four minute advantage on third stage of 22.5 km which they maintain as they set out on the fourth stage of just 15.5km, the shortest but the hottest part of the day. Katie led a group of four riders who finished this leg at the same time.

Three of the group Smith, Pascale Dietsch (second place finish) Denis Pesce (third place finish) rode together over the penultimate stage of 18.9km and left together on the final loop of 20.4km which started with the long climb to the Collar of Montmirat christened ?The Justice of The Peace?.

The fourth rider Catherine Roland was eliminated after the fifth stage. UAE rider Adnan Sultan Saif Al Nuaimi, director general of Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club finished 25th out of the 30 riders who completed the ride which also included Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain in the 20th position.

Just prior to receiving the trophy, a jubilant Katie overwhelmed by her success, commented: ?I can?t believe it. It?s unreal.

?He just charged off at the start.

?I had to let him choose his own speed as he would waste too much energy if I fought him.

He was just fantastic as he powered up the mountains. ?The last loop was the hardest a 10km climb then a very step descent. Three of us were riding together. We planned to take the descent slowly but suddenly four riders galloped up behind us so it turned into flat race over the last two kilometre.?

No doubt Orkara?s aggressive nature was an asset as he fought any horse that challenged his supremacy and Katie?s skill as a flat race jockey were a great attribute at this time.

Only fractions of a second separated the winning trio who had averaged 14.60kph.

Surprisingly Katie, a member of the British team for the last European and two World Championships, has not been selected by Endurance Great Britain for the Endurance Championship at Compiegne during the month of August this year.

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