Abu Dhabi: Ali Khalfan Al Jahouri partnered the seven-year-old Cupid to his third National Day Cup triumph and in the process rewrote the record books with the fastest time in a 120-km endurance ride.
The Nakheel-sponsored three-star FEI endurance ride at the Emirates International Endurance Village attracted almost all the top horses in the country and, after a fascinating contest over five stages and 120km, Ali Khalfan Al Jahouri, on Cupid, finished ahead of UAE champion Yousef Ahmad Al Beloushi on Estaban with Pan Arab Games double gold medallist Shaikh Mayed Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on Omani Iman, in third place.
The winning time of 4hrs 32mins 46secs at an average of 26.40 km/h broke the earlier record held by Yousef Ahmad when he clocked 4: 39.10 on Jibbah Enog during the Damas Championship held at this very venue on January 20.
Ali Khalfan, who had finished second twice behind Yousef this season, finally struck at the prestigious National Day Cup, winning it for the third time for Al Wathba Stables.
Thani Mohammad Al Muhairi and Hassan Bin Ali, two other winners this season, finished fourth and fifth respectively - a perfect ending to one of the strongest-ever fields of riders and horses among the 112 pairs who started.
With Ali Khalfan on Cupid, the best bet from Al Wathba Stables, Yousef Ahmad on Esteban, winner of last year's National Day Cup ride and the Bab Al Shams ride earlier this season, Shaikh Mayed on Omani Iman, winner of the Pan Arab gold medal and Hassan Bin Ali on Blackheath Kira, winner of this season's opening ride, along with some of the top riders and runners in the UAE, yesterday's contest witnessed one of the fastest ever final loops too.
Ali Khalfan led Yousef Ahmad by about 31 seconds as they set out on the final loop of 16 kms.
Twice earlier it was Yousef Ahmad who edged out Ali Khalfan to second place but yesterday the Al Wathba rider gained sweet revenge on the Al Reef champion.
Ali Khalfan on Cupid recorded a speed of 35.78 km/h on the final loop and though Yousef on Estaban did a faster loop averaging 35.98, the small lead came in handy in giving the bearded Al Wathba rider his third National Day Cup victory.
Ahmad Al Jaziri of Nakheel, Adnan Sultan Al Nuaimi of ADEC and Lara Sawaya of Tasweeq gave away the trophies and also picked Afghan national Gafour Jan as winner of the Kia car in the raffle for spectators.
"I just wanted a lead of about a minute going into the final loop and the 31 seconds helped. It made the others go faster to try and catch me while I waited and then made my final run," said the experienced Ali Khalfan.