Dubai: Abdullah Ganem Al Merri survived testing conditions to win the His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup, the opening ride of the 2012-2013 UAE Endurance season at Dubai International Endurance City on Thursday.

The 160km three-star horseride was attended by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Also present was Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, a number of Shaikhs and horse owners.

Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, was among the 200 participants before he pulled out in the second of four loops.

Riding the Nad Al Sheba Stables-owned Arabian Amooh, Al Merri won in a time of 4hrs 17min 18sec.

Ganem Saeed Salem Al Owais was second in 4:17.15 seconds, while Mohammad Saeed Mohammad Al Fares clocked 4:17.48 for third place. Ahmad Yousuf Al Beloushi was fourth and Safa Endurance Stables’ Saeed Ahmad Al Katbi fifth.

The 120km race featured four loops, the first and second being 40km each, while the third and fourth were 20km apiece.

Al Merri said he knew he had to stay consistent throughout the ride to have a chance of winning.

“I had a good horse and I knew what to expect this time and was prepared for a tight competition,” he said. “But nothing could have prepared me for the second loop, which was very tough because of the blowing sand and the heat.

“I wish to thank His Highness Shaikh Mohammad and Shaikh Hamdan for supporting me and helping me learn more and more about endurance horses. I’m very happy to win this opening ride and I hope I can continue and have a good season.”

Mohammad Al Adhab, Deputy General Manager of Dubai Equestrian Club, presented the top three riders with their prizes.