By M. Satya Narayan, Staff Reporter - Gulfnews.com
Published: September 09, 2007, 21:33
Bin Shafya happy with UAE's show
Alcochette, Portugal: The European equestrian fraternity seemed to have become familiar with the UAE national anthem, which once again filled the air when Mubarak Khalifa Bin Shafya stood on the podium to extend the UAE's domination in the European Open endurance championships.
Bin Shafya, representing the UAE for the first time, won the 160-km Open individual gold medal on Saturday, but the newly-appointed trainer-cum-manager of the Al Asaafa Endurance Stables, owned by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said luck deprived the UAE of a team medal.
"I am delighted with my performance, but we really had a good chance of winning a team medal until the final stages when luck turned against us. First Shaikh Rashid Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum's horse just about failed before the final loop of 27 kms.
"Despite that we were in sight of the team gold but with less than a kilometre left for the final loop, Shaikh Mayed Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum's horse Kevin De Narthou slipped and fell forcing a key team member out of the race and our team medal hopes vanished with that.
"Sultan Bin Sulayem also did very well to finish first, but his horse could not clear the vet check. Overall it was a good display by the UAE riders and I am satisfied with the performances of the horses," said Bin Shafya, who was given charge about a month back.
"As far as my win here is concerned, I always set the pace and it paid off. That has always been my policy to go for a win and with me not being part of the team, it helped me to go for the gold," added the new European Open champion, the fourth consecutive one to hail from the UAE.
Frenchman Jean Phillipe Francas on Hanaba Du Bois, who took the Open silver and also topped the European pack, said it was a very tough ride.
"A silver medal, in a ride dominated by the UAE riders, is a fantastic achievement for me. I knew I could not catch the UAE riders so I just decided to ensure I won the European section, so getting a silver in the Open is a bonus," said the 31-year-old, who hails from Aix en Provence. Jean had won a team gold in the 2002 World Championship with France.
The Head of Endurance at the Dubai Equestrian Club, Ali Moosa attended the prize distribution and gave away the team medals.
"We could have ended with more success but that is how sport is. We are happy that the UAE riders displayed excellent character and won the hearts of the large crowds here with their horsemanship," he said.