Dubai: Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, won the prestigious His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup for the second year in succession on Saturday and then said he would launch his quest to win February’s HH The President of the UAE Cup.
Riding Ajayeb, a 15-year-old French-bred mare trained by Esmail Mohammad, Shaikh Hamdan led home a spectacular 1-2-3 finish for Emirati riders in the 160-kilometre CEI 3 Star ride which was contested by 227 top riders, representing an impressive 41 countries.
Abdullah Ghanim Al Marri, winner in 2012 and 2013, was denied his attempt to become the first rider to win the competition three times, when he finished runner-up.
Saeed Mohammad Khalifa Al Mehairi, winner of the 160km 3 Star HH President Cup last season, took third place.
“I am honoured and proud to win the His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Cup for the second time,” Shaikh Hamdan told the Dubai Racing Channel. “It is one of the most prestigious rides on the endurance calendar and attracts some of the best riders in the world.
“So it was very special to finish ahead of the many talented riders.”
Shaikh Hamdan revealed that His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, chose Ajayeb over other top endurance horses in the MRM Stables as his ride and also planned his strategy.
“Shaikh Mohammad advised me to be cautious and not to use up my horse during the first three loops. The plan was to pick up the pace in the fourth loop, which I did to go into the lead, before making my bid in the final loop.
“The conditions were good and my horse did not tire. He looked fresh during the final two loops and responded well to my commands.”
The ride was attended by Shaikh Mohammad, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, Shaikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs and Bahrain’s Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Bahrain Olympic Committee.
Shaikh Hamdan, who won last year’s HH Shaikh Mohammad Endurance Cup aboard the 11-year-old gelding Nopoli Del Ma, said he did not like to compare the two horses, but believed that Ajayeb was not of the same standard.
With Saturday’s win, Shaikh Hamdan became one of four riders to win the event twice.
Al Marri triumphed in 2012 and 2013, while Ali Khalfan Al Jahouri scored back-to-back wins in 2009 & 2010.
Prior to that, Omair Al Balouchi won the inaugural His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Cup in 2008 and repeated the feat in 2011.