Saturday, February 28, 2009

UAE: Riding to glory

Khaleej Times Online
photo: Sheikh Mohammed (right) and Sheikh Hamdan on their way to a 1-2 finish in the 120km Dubai Endurance Challenge on SaturdayM

Hisham Al Gizouli
28 February 2009

SEI ASSALAM (Dubai) — His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, partnered eight-year-old Tahhan to glory in the final leg of the Giants Endurance Challenge at Seih Assalam Endurance City on Saturday.

The UAE riders swept the first five positions as Bahrain’s Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa finished sixth to walk away with the second place honours in the overall standing 
of the competition.

Shaikh Mohammed was crowned Champion of the Giants Endurance Challenge Grand Prix after having won the second leg in Bahrain and finishing fifth in the first race at Al Wathba International Endurance Village 
in December. The leading international horse owner, breeder and rider finished just ahead of his son Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, when the two riders crossed the finish line hand in hand with the UAE flag 
flying overhead.

Tahhan is trained by Abdullah Saeed bin Huzaim at Emaar Endurance Stables owned by Shaikh Mohammed.

“My horse has been well prepared for the race after receiving a perfect dose of training.

“The only problem was the sand storm and the dust which has adversely affected the overall speed of the race. But in all cases, it is an endurance race which tests the stamina of both the horse and its rider,” Shaikh Mohammed said.

The race was attended by His Majesty King Hamad bin Eisa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, and a number of Shaikhs and top officials and a large number of spectators who came to enjoy the race.

Bahrain’s King praised the hard work of Shaikh Mohammed who is behind all the success achieved by this fast growing sport. He also described Shaikh Mohammed in a brief TV interview as a man of vision and 
forward thinking.

Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum heaped praise on Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum for the manner in which he handled Garaman Micado, who is still new and needed to be ridden with care.

Shaikh Hamdan rode 11-year-old Garaman Mikado from the stables of Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Seeh Al Salam Endurance Stables whose horse are trained and prepared by Ali Mohammed Al Muhairi.

Competitors from different parts of the world took part in the competition with 41 riders skirting the sand hills under the early rays of the sun in the final leg of the Triple Crown contest.

The 120km CEI Giants Endurance Challenge was a tough test for the riders and their horses as well after the sandstorm which hit the country from early in the morning.

The pre-race weather forecast reading was clear vision with the temperature up to 38 degrees centigrade and the wind speed 28km/hr SSW in the early morning to increase to 28k/hr in the afternoon.

But the riders had to find their way through the dust as the vision was decreased to less than 20 metres in some areas. More than 10 riders were either eliminated or retired between the first two Vet Gates which underlines the difficult weather conditions that forced quarter of the field to quit in the early stages of the race.

Shaikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Presidential Affairs, who was a front-runner for the title was eliminated between Gate 1 and 2. He told Dubai Racing Channel that he was unlucky and God be 
with the others.

Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum was also quoted by the TV commentator as saying Shaikh Mansour’s horse Eo Jaras was not in its best form. “The indications on the day before the race were not positive, but Shaikh Mansour decided 
to take the risk.”

Bahrain rider Shaikh Salman bin Saqr Al Khalifa was among the first batch of those eliminated in the opening phases of the gruelling race.


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