(photo: Winners of the Emirates Heritage Club Cup, Rashed Salem Mohammad Al Faresi and Naser Khamis Ali Saeed at the Bou Thib endurance village in Abu Dhabi.)
Abu Dhabi: Sixteen-year-old Rashed Salem Mohammad Al Faresi won the Emirates Heritage Club Cup 100-km endurance ride for juniors to give Al Reef Stables the perfect start to the new season.
Al Reef, who emerged the leading stable last season along with leading trainer Yousuf Ahmad Al Bloushi combined in Rashed Salem's success as the young rider chalked out his first career win after learning the hard way last season.
Rashed Salem rode Glenleigh Saphire to victory in the four-stage 100km event and it was on the same horse that he had finished third last season but failed to clear the final vet check.
After 26 started in the season's first competitive event, Rashed Salem in fact finished second, almost six minutes behind Sultan Ahmad Al Bloushi. But the latter seemed to have pushed his horse Elphyn Shuvara a little bit too hard and it failed the final vet check.
But Rashed Salem's horse cleared the vet check and finally the fact that he paced his horse well seemed to have got him the desired success.
Both Sultan and Rashed had been battling as leaders over the first three stages of 30km, 30kms and 24kms. Going into the final stage it was Rashed who started off first, followed by another Al Reef rider Naser Khamis Ali Saeed with Sultan Ahmad about five minutes behind the leader in third place.
Sultan, however picked up pace and finished ahead of the Al Reef duo but the effort seemed to take its toll on the horse's condition.
Naser Khamis Ali Saeed on Talisman Tobis finished second to make it a 1-2 finish for Al Reef while Britain's Kimberley Dean finished third. "Last season I was disqualified after finishing third on the same horse so I was a little more careful on the final loop," said Rashed Salem.
"The weather was good in the morning but during the final loop it was a bit testing. But my horse stayed in good shape," said the first-time winner. Trainer Yousuf Ahmad Al Bloushi said he was thrilled to start with a win. "We had a good season and I hope to do well again this season," said the man who looks after the Al Ain operations of Al Reef.
"I have about 40 horses and some of them should go on to do well," said Yousuf.
In the 44-km Federation Qualifier, 32 riders including Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan qualified while in the 80-km event, 14 riders met the qualification parameters laid down by the Federation.