Friday, February 11, 2011

UAE: Al Baloushi brothers and fellow Emiratis take on the world in 160km President's Cup endurance race at Al Wathba
Amith Passela
Feb 12, 2011

photo:Maria Alvarez Ponton (1) leads Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (7) at the 2010 World Endurance Championship. John Sommers / Reuters

The reigning world champion Maria Alvarez Ponton of Spain and Valerie Kanavy, the two-time world champion from the United States, are among the top riders in today's President's Cup endurance race at the Emirates International Endurance Village in Al Wathba.

Ponton, who trains endurance horses in Dubai with her husband, Juma Punti Dachs, won the world title from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, in the US last September.

Today, Ponton will compete aboard Iska, a 15-year-old Anglo-Arab. When she rode at the world championship in Lexington, Kentucky last year, she was on Nobby, a purebred Arabian of the same age.

Kanavy, the winner of the world title in 1994 and 1998, is one of the five riders from the US who will compete in today's 160km race. She rides Spectacular Gold, a nine-year-old bay gelding.

She won on Gold Raven over the same distance at the Dupuis Equestrian Centre near Indiantow, Florida, at the first US endurance meeting of the season in January. The Al Reef Stables' al Baloushi brothers, Yousef Ahmed and Sultan Ahmed, have won the last two runnings of the race and they post the biggest challenge in a field that also include past winners Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, the Crown Prince of Dubai; Hassan bin Ali and Abdulla Khamis Ali Saeed.

"The President's Cup is the biggest endurance prize in Abu Dhabi and is the dream of every rider to win it," said Yousef Ahmed al Baloushi, who trained and rode the 2008 winner Charlendre El Sharif, who repeated that success under Sultan Ahmed, the younger brother, last year.

Yousef has been the most successful trainer/rider in the domestic season for the past five years and he is riding Elphyn Silverlight, a nine-year-old grey gelding.

He also trained OH-Jay, the winner of the Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Cup, another 160km race in Dubai in January, ridden by his cousin Omair Hussain al Baloushi.

"We have had a lot of success because we have prepared the horses well, and we also are quite fortunate to have some good horses in training," he said. "A 160km race will test the best of the horses but we are hopeful."

It was announced yesterday the Netherlands will host the second World Arabian Horse Racing Conference from June 16-18 following the success of the inaugural conference in Abu Dhabi last September.

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