The rides, sponsored by Emirates Equestrian Federation, are the official endurance test event for the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games, according to a press release from the organisers.
Shaikh Mayed crossed the wire first in the CEI** 75 mile event in a ride time of 6:05:30. McGunigal finished the CEI*** in a ride time in 6:30:41. The CEI*** was originally an FEI qualifying event at a distance of 100 miles (160km), but lost its status when it was shortened to 120km after the footing became questionable in inclement weather. Shaikh Mayed was thrilled with his win.
"It was amazing. This is the sport that we most love. It's our history," said Shaikh Mayed. "Given the weather today, the course was amazing. But the weather made it very difficult. There wasn't any hard part, other than the ground being a bit slippery. Other than that, it was excellent. There wasn't anything wrong or bad."
"I have mixed feelings about shortening the race," said McGunigal. "The footing was only getting worse. Some of the parts of the trail that we had to go over were already slippery and deep and if the race was kept at the original distance, we would have had to go over it again, so in that sense, I am glad they shortened it. But I was hoping to use this race to qualify my horse [Gold Raven] for next year, and now we have to do it at another event, so that is very disappointing."
Rain was a recurring focus of the day, with a downpour shortly before the start of the rides. It continued throughout the day for all mandatory veterinary exams, creating a messy vet gate and slippery footing. Two-time Endurance World Champion Valerie Kanavy and mother of McGunigal, was affected by the weather and footing. Kanavy was eliminated after her horse LM Parys fell on the second loop.
"We were crossing the road on the blacktop and she just slipped," said Kanavy. "She went down and I went right after. She has recovered and is doing fine now."
The endurance levels of the athletes from the 23 countries participating were truly tested. However, according to Mubarak Khalifa of the UAE, the weather was no big deal. "Endurance riders are used to riding in all kinds of weather, so this is normal."
Riding Kangoo d'Aurabelle le, an 11-year-old pure-bred Arabian grey gelding, Shaikh Mayed completed the ride distance in 06:05:30.
Second and third places in the event went to UAE riders Ahmad Salem Ali Sultan Al Sabousi, who partnered 13-year-old Bess Ess-Ob in 06:05:31, maintaining an average speed of 19.70kmph, and Yaha Sughayer Kanoon Al Aljtabi, who was astride nine-year-old Medjedra. He finished the ride in 06:20:30 with an average speed of 18.90 kmph.
Mubarak Khalifa Bin Shafya finished in fifth place whereas Sultan Ahmad Bin Sultan Bin Sulayem finished in the seventh place. Fourth place went to Spanish rider Jordi Arboix.