Dubai: Hamdan Ahmad Al Merri and his mare, Raya, emerged the winners of the sixth Gamilati Endurance Cup for Mares sponsored by Al Tayer Motors Thursday, a 119km ride held at the purpose-built Dubai International Endurance City.
The 17-year-old, who has been riding since the age of six, was first congratulated by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, following his victory which stopped the clock in at 4:23.45.
Speaking after the win Al Merri said: “This is a very special win for me, I have been training very hard, and have waited a whole year for this race. My horse is a strong horse and credit must go to her as well, I have been riding with her for a year now and she has done a really good job.
“I am glad I won this race, I have had very good support from my whole team, now I am looking ahead to the His Highness Crown Prince Endurance Cup and I really hope I can perform at a high level there too.”
The first group of competitors embarked upon the 119km, 4 loop course at 7am, and leading the pack at the end of the first loop, which was 39km long, was local rider Ghaith Abdul Wahid Khamis Rubaiya aboard Buhoor. The winner, Al Merri, chose to start slow, and was fifth at this stage.
But in the three following loops, which were 32km, 30km and 18km respectively, it was the pairing of Al Merri and the 10-year-old grey, Raya, who held on to a winning lead with an average speed of just over 27km per hour. This is the second career win for the rider and a first for the mare, who is owned by Hamdan Saeed Jabber and trained by Rashid Bin Shafya.
In second place was Spanish female rider Naroa Calvo Ibanez aboard the nine-year-old Shagaf from the M7 Stables trained by Abdullah Al Subose. Ibanez and Shagaf fluctuated, holding fourth through the first loop, dropping to eleventh in the second, going on to catch up with the leader in the final two loops and maintaining second place in both.
Coming in a couple of minutes behind the Spanish rider was UAE’s Salem Hamad Al Ketbi, aboard Al Teheebah, also from the M7 Stables and prepared by Al Subose.
A total of 122 runnduncaers started the sixth running of the prestigious Gamilati Endurance Cup, which was first run in 2012, and named by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, after the Godolphin-trained flat race mare, Gamilati, who claimed the 2012 UAE 1,000 Guineas and UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial at Meydan Racecourse.
The next big event on the endurance calendar is the HH Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Festival which is scheduled to take place between March 13-18 at the DIEC. Three main rides feature in the festival — including a 90km ride especially for women riders, a 100km ride catering to local private stables and individual riders, and the finale, which is the CEI** 120km ride on March 18 where some key players in the international endurance racing scene are expected to participate.