Abu Dhabi: The depth of the UAE's pool of riding talent was once again evident as another youngster topped the podium in the Shaikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum CEI Two-star 120km Endurance Ride yesterday.
College student Mohammad Ahmad Hassan Al Abbar, 18, rode 15-year-old Jordan Vale Red Cloud to a fantastic win in harsh conditions at the Emirates International Endurance Village in Al Wathba.
A field of 143 riders took part — another sign of the growing popularity of endurance riding in the UAE, the nerve centre of the sport. Several riders from other countries were also in the field.
The sandstorm which the country has been experiencing created havoc as the open desert venue made it extremely difficult for both rider and horse.
But Al Abbar on his experienced gelding came up with a consistent display, starting with a top ten finish in the first of the five stages.
Al Abbar, who was ninth after the second stage and then moved into fifth position, maintained a good average speed of over 26km/h for the first two stages.
However, with most of the field finding the conditions tough, the pace dipped over the last two loops with Al Abbar moving to the front and Mubarak Awad Al Khateri a close second on Gairos. In the 16km loop, it was Al Khateri who showed more pace but Al Abbar held on to win the 120km event by 29 seconds.
It was Al Abbar's first win and comes after a brilliant third-place finish in the prestigious 160km Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup, held in Dubai earlier this season. "It is a great feeling as this is the first win for both me and my horse," he said. "The conditions were really tough and it became tougher in the last two loops. Some very good riders were in contention but I am glad we made it."
Al Abbar received the keys for a brand new Nissan Patrol from Shaikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum, who also dished out the trophies to the other podium finishers. A total prize fund of Dh400,000, including the four wheel drive vehicle, was on offer.
Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, and Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance attended the ride.
Joining Shaikh Rashid at the prize-giving ceremony were Taleb Daher Al Muhairi, Secretary-General of Emirates Equestrian Federation, Adnan Sultan Saif Al Nuaimi, Director-General of Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and Lara Sawaya, Director of the Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival.
1. Mohammad Ahmad Hassan Al Abbar (Jordan Vale Red Cloud) 4:46.08;
2. Mubarak Awad Al Khateri (Gairos) 4:46.37:
3. Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum (Tonki Dee Boo Kokoda) 4:48.35;
4. Khalfan Salman Hassan Al Sabri (Oscar de Tanues) 4:49.57;
5. Shaikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum (Potro Ganador) 4:52.07.