Monday, January 11, 2016

How an Unsung Sheikh has Forced an Epiphany in Endurance - Full Article

Cuckson Report | January 11, 2016

Only keen students of Middle Eastern politics have probably heard of the intriguingly named Dr. Sheikh Sultan, but 2016 could be the year in which his body of admirers spreads far outside the Emirates.

First, though, some background for those whose geography etc. is a bit scratchy.

The UAE comprises seven sheikhdoms (or emirs), of which Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the most powerful, ruled by the Nahyan and Maktoum families respectively.

Dubai is perhaps the more famous, as a business hub and tourist magnet and because of the stratospheric profile of its Thoroughbred racing through the involvement of Sheikh Mohammed, ruler of Dubai. However, the overall UAE presidency is with the Al Nayhans, currently Sheikh Khalifa. So Sheikh Mohammed is not the quite the most senior person in the Emirates, being overall UAE vice president and UAE prime minister.

One of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughters is married to famed soccer patron Sheikh Mansour Al Nahyan, UAE deputy Prime Minister, though despite this romantic alliance there is rivalry between the two families.

Mohammed and Mansour also own the two busiest endurance venues – Dubai International Endurance City (DIEC), due to host the 2016 world championships unless the UAE gets suspended again, and Al Wathba.

One Sheikh is moving mountains to reform endurance. Sadly it’s neither of these two.

Our unsung hero is His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Al Nahyan, a former deputy UAE prime minister, Mansour’s much older half-sibling and three-quarters sibling of president Khalifa. Sultan was part-educated outside the UAE, including a spell at Millfields, a famous British school renowned for its sporting prowess and values.

Sheikh Sultan is keen on endurance too, and owns the UAE’s third busiest venue, Bou Thib.

For eons he has despaired about the evolution of the desert racing and yearned for “classical” endurance, or indeed anything that doesn’t view the horse as expendable. But he was a voice in the wilderness, quite literally...

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