Thursday, September 06, 2007

UAE the team to beat

By M. Satya Narayan, Staff Reporter
Gulf News


Shaikh Rashid Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum , Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum and Shaikh Mayed Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum will lead the UAE's challenge, along with Sultan Bin Sulayem in tomorrow's 160-km endurance ride in the World Endurance Games.
Alcochette, Portugal: Nearly 90 riders from 20 countries will start tomorrow's 160-km FEI European Open Endurance Championship here about 25 kms away from the capital Lisbon and the team to beat will be the United Arab Emirates.

Ever since the UAE won its first-ever international championship, which was here in Portugal when the 1999 European Open championship was jointly held with Spain, the UAE riders have dominated the open category.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was the architect of that first win in 1999 when the UAE won the team gold and after that the UAE has virtually dominated the Open championships.

Shaikh Mohammad himself won the 2003 individual gold in 2003 while Shaikh Rashid Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum won the individual gold in 2001 and now Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum starts as defending champion having won the gold in Compiegne, France in 2005.

Medal fight

Shaikh Mohammad announced the team last month which includes Shaikh Rashid Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Shaikh Mayed Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Sultan Bin Sulayem and Mubarak Khalifa Bin Shafya. The 160-km European Championship will have medals on offer for the Open event as well as the European event and the UAE will be challenged by traditional European powers France, Italy, Germany and hosts Portugal while two other GCC countries, Bahrain and Qatar along with the US add another dimension to the medal fight.

Ali Moosa, Endurance Head at the Dubai Equestrian Club said the UAE horses have been based in Newmarket through the summer and have been well prepared for the event.

The UAE, who last swept honours in the Doha Asiad winning the team gold and the individual gold and bronze are once again expected to be a strong force here.

Strong advantage

While the final team composition and the horses will be known today after the final pre-event veterinary check, the championship has attracted a strong field of 90 entries with at least 14 countries in the team championship.

Hosts Portugal will have a strong advantage

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