Abu Dhabi: The last time 11-year-old Balek El Tornado from W’rsan Stables crossed the finish line first was in the prestigious National Day Cup with Khamis Al Rumaithi — but the horse failed the mandatory veterinary check and was eliminated.
However, in Saturday’s Emirates Championship, run over the same distance of 120km, the Uruguayan-bred horse more than made up by winning under Shaikh Mohammad Bin Khalifa Bin Mohammad Al Nahyan.
Shaikh Mohammad, who in the process earned his first ever victory, paced the 11-year-old bay gelding to finish just ahead of lady rider Mariam Mohammad Mothanna on Mutajjeb from Seeh Al Salam Endurance Stables.
Shaikh Mohammad and Balek El Tornado were in 36th position at the end of two stages and 60km. At that stage Mariam was in seventh place and looking good. But in the third loop, the ultimate winners eased into 13th position and began to make winning moves.
Going into the final loop of 16km, Shaikh Mohammad and Balek El Tornado were in sixth place, while Mariam and Mutajjeb were in third.
But a steady pace ensured Balek El Tornado did not fail this time to help Shaikh Mohammad score his maiden win.
The globe-trotting Balek El Tornado, under Fernando Paiz Larrave, had helped the Guatemalan team win the bronze medal at the Pan American Endurance Championship in Uruguay 2009.
The winning rider was elated after his effort, and said: “With more than 200 riders (213 started the ride), it was very tough out there. I just adopted a safety-first approach and then, with the horse showing a keenness to go faster, I let him do the rest.”
“It is a great first win for me coming against some of the best and most experienced riders in the world,” Shaikh Mohammad added.
Saturday’s ride was attended by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Presidential Affairs and Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Adnan Sultan Al Nuaimi, Director General of Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, Lara Sawaya, Director of the Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival and Head of Ladies Racing (IFAHR), Saif Al Awani, Managing Director of Al Awani and Nafez Abbara, Projects Manager, SAS Investment distributed the trophies to the winners.