Monday, October 20, 2008

Malaysia WEC: UAE riders saddle up for title mount

The National
Amith Passela
October 20. 2008

ABU DHABI // Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed will lead a six-member UAE team in the FEI World Endurance Championship in Terengganu, one of the three east coast states of the Malaysian Peninsular, on Nov 7.

The others in the team include his younger brother Sheikh Majid, Mubarak Khalifa bin Shafya, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Mohammed Ahmed Ali Subose and Abdulla Thani bin Huzaim.

The UAE are one of the favourites in the 160km race that has drawn 142 entries from 34 countries.

The race will be held at night for the first time. This is because the country experiences afternoon rains, particularly from November to January. And the days are warm with humidity more than 80 per cent.

The course takes the riders along a stunning coastline, through palm plantations, along canal banks and through natural vegetation forests. The start is a long and wide grassy stretch of track and the finish line is the entry back into the Endurance Park.

Sheikh Hamdan, who has won a number of endurance trophies, including the Asian Games Gold and, more recently, a fourth place in the European Open in Portugal last year, is set to ride Jazyk.

The 11-year-old Arabian chestnut gelding finished 15th under Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed in that race after recovering from time wasted in replacing a shoe he lost in the opening loop.

Sheikh Majid rides another European Open campaigner Spenda Crest Kamouflage, another 11-year-old chestnut gelding who is joint seventh in the FEI Endurance horses’ world ranking list.

Shafya is to reunite with Zakah Zahara, who was first past the post in the 160km race before being disqualified when failing to pass the post-race veterinary test. Sulayem is booked on Tazoul El Parry while Subose and Huzaim, who are ranked fourth and fifth respectively in the FEI rankings, are set to partner Koum Des Jamets and Castlebar Kadeem.

The UAE have a proud record since the sport was first introduced officially in the country in 1993. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed, on Bowman, became the youngest and first male rider to win the world championship in Jerez, Spain, in 2002.

They have hosted two world championships, the first in 1998 and then in 2004 in which Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed shared the podium with the winner Barbara Lissarague of France.

The UAE will be aiming to regain the world championship and also claim the team title they have come close to winning on numerous occasions only to fail on the final loop of the race.

The UAE season, meanwhile, gets under way with a 100km race for young riders and juniors at the Bouthdib Endurance Village on Nov 1.

The week after is free because of the World Equestrian Championship in Malaysia, and Nov 15 sees the first of the open rides of the season at the Emirates International Endurance Village in Al Wathba.

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