Monday, August 13, 2007

Endurance horses primed for challenge of European Open

Gulf News

photo: Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, defending individual champion, will be leading the UAE's campaign along with his brothers Shaikh Rashid, Shaikh Ahmad, Shaikh Mayed in the European Open, to be held in Portugal on September 8."

By M. Satya Narayan, Staff Reporter
Published: August 13, 2007, 22:48

Abu Dhabi: With His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, having named a strong team of UAE riders for the European Open Endurance Championship, the horses too are being primed for the prestigious championship.

Speaking to Gulf News from Newmarket, Esmaeel Mohammad, trainer of endurance horses for Shaikh Mohammad, said 12 horses have been nominated to partner the champion UAE riders, who are a dominant force in the sport of endurance, at the European Open Championship to be held in Portugal on September 8.

"We have entered 12 horses, though we had quite a few more horses that had qualified for the championship," Ismaeel said.

"Out of these 12 six runners and a spare horse will be named a week before the championship.

Shaikh Rashid Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Shaikh Mayed Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Shaikh Abdullah Al Qasimi, Sultan Bin Sulayem, Mohammad Al Sabousi and Mubarak Bin Shafya are the eight riders who have been selected by Shaikh Mohammad, who has himself won the European gold four times.

Shaikh Rashid is the current Asian Games gold medallist, while Shaikh Hamdan is the defending champion and Shaikh Ahmad a former world champion.

Together with Shaikh Mayed they also won the Asian Games team gold and quite a few other international rides. Shaikh Abdullah Al Qasimi finished third in the World Junior Championship, while Sultan Bin Sulayem won the bronze medal in the Asian Games in Qatar.

Strong contenders

Four riders will make it as the team members, while a further two will take a shot at individual honours.

The UAE will be starting off as strong contenders, though other Gulf riders from Qatar and Bahrain - along with the traditional European endurance powers France, Spain, Italy and hosts Portugal - will all pose a strong challenge.

"We moved most of our horses immediately after the UAE season ended in April and we have been training them here at our Newmarket base for over four months," said Esmaeel, who has trained most of the UAE horses that have won at international rides.

"The horses have taken part in three rides here in the UK and we will be moving the championship horses to Portugal about five days before the event," added Esmaeel.

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