Friday, January 04, 2008

Abu Dhabi: Fahad is first Omani to win endurance race - Jan 4 2008 - Full story

By Amith Passela

ABU DHABI - Shaikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan stayed on course of his title defence of the three-day 240-kilometre endurance race for Shaikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan Cup sponsored by Sorouh here at the Boudthib Endurance Village yesterday.

Shaikh Hazza held a slender lead on 11-year-old Crossbred Anglo Arab gelding Akab after the opening day's 80-kilometre stage from last season’s leading rider Yousef Ahmed Al Baloushi astride Zara Farm Chandalii.

Only 30 minutes separated the top 20 riders at the end of the opening stage of the race run over three loops. Shaikh Hazza clocked three hours 12 minutes and 56 second, just nine seconds ahead of Al Baloushi.

A further half-a-minute in third was Mohammed Saeed Al Junaibi on Ramalea Captain Starlight, followed by Ali Al Muhairi onboard Akasha Sensation, Jassim Ali Al Hammadi (Nadja Lotoise) and Shaikh Khalid bin Sultan Al Nahyan (Nemer).

Shaikh Hazza finished strongly after completing the first 30km loop in 16th. He moved up 10 places in the next 30 kilometres and headed the field on the last 20km loop of the day.

Yousef Ahmed predicted a close race after the first day's standings. "The field is closely grouped and looks like a wide open race at this stage. For me, it's a good position to be in when we start day two, which will be much tougher."

The Al Reef Stable rider has already won two races for the season and finished a creditable second behind Ali Khalfan Al Jahouri in the National Day Cup race three weeks ago.

The three-day ride that has drawn 59 entries is part of the annual endurance festival under the patronage of Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the Boudthib Endurance Village.

The opening day also saw a 120-kilometre race for private stables and individuals, and won by Abu Dhabi based Omani rider Fahad Abdulla Al Baloushi on 15-year-old Crossbred mare Nakita owned by Mohammed Ahmed Khalifa Al Hameli.

Fahad incidentally became the first Omani national to win an endurance race in the Emirates. "I'm not aware of any such record but I'll remember this for a long, long time, it being my first win since I began riding two years ago."

Private stable

The 23-year-old who works for a private stable in Abu Dhabi made almost every yard of the running to complete the distance in more than five hours and 46 minutes.

Fahad lost a podium finish in a similar race at Boudthib last month when his horse was vetted out for metabolic after crossing the finish line in second.

"It was a very bitter experience," said Fahad.

"This time I didn’t have to push my horse hard as the second horse was a long way back. I thought I had the race when going into the second last loop."

Fahad lost the lead briefly in the second loop but was in front again from there onwards to go on and win the race by more than 10 minutes from Al Ain Stables Hamad Ibrahim Al Marzouqi on Milqui, who occupied the same spot as he did in a similar race category last week in the Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1.

The second stage of the main ride will start at 6.30am today and will include a 120-kilometre race for Young Riders and Juniors, worked off simultaneously as the second day's programme.

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