Dubai: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, leads a strong UAE team in the 14th World Endurance Championships to be held at Euston Park near Newmarket, Suffolk, UK on Saturday.
The team also features Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Shaikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture, Shaikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum, Ali Khalfan Al Jahouri and Ahmad Mohammad Ahmad Belqaizi.
Shaikh Mohammad led the UAE to a team gold in the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 and will be looking to replicate that performance in today’s FEI CEI 4**** competition, which carries a total prize fund of £125,000. The individual winner is set to receive £20,000.
Three world champions are among the huge international field of 152 riders from 38 countries taking part in the 160km ride, which will begin with a mass start at 10am (UAE time).
Shaikh Mohammad is scheduled to ride the 12-year-old French-bred chestnut gelding Madji Du Pont. Shaikh Hamdan will be aboard Nikos; Shaikh Majid on Nadhira Du Breuil; Shaikh Rashid Dalmook on Kangoo D’Aurabell; Ali Khalfan on Vendaval; and Ahmad Belqaizi on Dandy.
The UAE currently holds the team world title, while Dubai-based Spanish rider Maria Alvarez is set to defend the individual gold medal as she attempts to win a third consecutive individual title.
The UAE’s Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum had also won the individual gold in 2002.
Posing a strong challenge to the UAE team will be the French, Bahrain and Spanish riders, with the Americans fielding a team featuring two experienced riders including Becky Hart and Valerie Kanavy.
Hart is a three-time world championship (1988, 1990 and 1992), while Kanavy is a two-time winner.
Alvarez will partner her 17-year-old superstar Nobby as the pair attempt to make history. They are unbeaten in four successive championships and have won two world and two European titles since 2008.
Five of the rides six loops will take riders on different routes through the Suffolk countryside covering heathland, forest tracks, river meadows and open farmland, all with the support of local landowners, farmers and the Forestry Commission.
Course designers Steve Hulse and Gary Honeywill say the main aim throughout the ride has been to provide interesting and varied terrain that will offer a true championship test.
Hulse, a former jockey, said: “The route may be flat, but it is deceptively difficult and requires real riding to get it right all the way to the finish.
“We have created a route over the best going possible; it’s a track that riders will enjoy but it will need care in places particularly around some of the wooded sections. The three river crossings are a real feature.”
While the individual competition will be an open affair in the team championships, the best timings of three of the four riders will count for the title.
Around 29 teams are expected to be seen in action.