Abu Dhabi: Young Abdullah Ganem Al Merri of Nad Al Sheba Stables partnered Shardell Alladeen to win the prestigious His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup, a 160-km Three-star ride held at the Dubai International Endurance City yesterday.
The ride was attended by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
After Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, retired his horse when leading in the penultimate stage, Al Merri got the better of Bahraini rider Ahmad Abdullah Al Hazza on Picaflor with their close battle going all the way to the final kilometre before the UAE rider won by 27 seconds.
With the Dubai Equestrian Club adopting a five-stage ride for the 160-km event for the first time, Al Merri went into the final 19-km loop third behind Al Hazza with well over a minute separating the two riders. He then increased his final loop speed on the 12-year-old to average 28.43 kmph in comparison to his fourth loop average speed of just over 21-kmph and that proved decisive.
"I am delighted to win this very prestigious ride. Last year I won the Dubai Crown Prince Cup and now this win and I am extremely pleased," said Al Merri. "It was a tough ride but I am happy with the new format of five loops," he added.
In winning the HH Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup, Al Merri was awarded an elegant Longines Column-Wheel Chronograph Gold timepiece.
Shaikh Hamdan, who has won almost every major international ride, also praised the adoption of the 5-loop 160-km event. "I am happy that this ride is over five stages instead of the customary six. I think this is good for the welfare of the horse," said the Dubai Crown Prince who withdrew his horse in the penultimate stage yesterday to preserve the horse.
Bahrain's Al Hazza said he was happy with his second-place finish. "I had brought my horse here and trained here and that helped a lot. It was a close race and I lost in the final kilometre," Al Hazza said.
Mohammad Ahmad Hassan Al Abbar finished third on Kumait which was a huge improvement on his 10th position in the same event last season while for Sultan Ahmad Al Beloushi it was a drop in his showing.
The Al Reef rider had finished second last season and yesterday seemed headed for a similar result being just 26 seconds in second place before the final loop.
But his horse Cronus could not keep pace and slipped to a fourth place finish for the consistent performer.
A total of 121 riders took part in the ride which was run in five stages of 40kms, 36kms, 33kms, 32kms and 19 kms.
The ride was also attended by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance; Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and other high-ranking officials from the UAE and other GCC nations.
- - Abdullah Ganem Al Merri (Shardell Alladeen) 6 hrs 34 mins 49 secs;
- - Ahmad Abdullah Al Hazza - Bahrain - (Picaflor) 6:35.16;
- - Mohammad Ahmad Hassan Al Abbar (Kumait) 6:43.44;
- - Sultan Ahmad Al Beloushi (Cronus) 6:47.16;
- - Mansour Ebrahim Ali Al Salman (Taita) 6:51.36