Dubai: It was a golden day for the UAE at the Longines FEI Endurance World Championship in Pisa, Italy when Salem Hamad Saeed Malhaoof Al Kitbi and Mansour Saeed Mohammed Al Faresi dominated a world class field to finish 1-2 in the gruelling 160 kilometre ride on Saturday.
Al Faresi, who has been an ultra-consistent performer on the endurance circuit since 2014, completed the course that traversed the magnificent San Rossore Massaciuccoli, one of the largest and most ancient nature parks in Tuscany, in a time of seven hours 24 minutes and 24 seconds.
The talented rider, who in 2017 won a major ride at Euston Park in Suffolk, England, was handily placed for the first five loops in third and second place before he made his move after leaving the final gate to win in impressive fashion.
Al Faresi, who began the ride in 18th position before picking up his game to move into contention when he entered the fifth loop in third place, finished strongly only a second behind Al Kitbi. Chile’s Boni Viada De Vivero delivered a strong performance to cross the finish in third place with a time of 07:31:26 seconds.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, previously upstaged a field of 152 riders to win the 2012 gold medal in England while Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai repeated the feat to win gold at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games.
Prior to that, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum won the gold medal in the World Endurance Championship in Jerez, Spain. He was the first-ever Arab or Asian to win a medal at the World Equestrian Games.
Only 27 riders from an original start field of 81 athletes, representing 32 countries across five continents, survived the challenges of the Italian ride on Saturday. Three other UAE riders including Sheikh Hamed Dalmouk Al Matoum, Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri and Salim Said Salim Al Owaisi did not complete the course.
Athletes and their horses travelled across meadows, hills, pine forests and marshes - among them being the 2016 world champion, Spain’s Jaume Punti Dachs, and his wife Maria Alvarez Ponton - a two-time individual gold winner at Terengganu in Malaysia in 2008 and at Kentucky, USA in 2010.
Also vying for honours was Alex Luque Moral from Spain and Bahrain’s Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who respectively took silver and bronze, at the 2016 World Championships in Samorin, Slovakia.
Saturday’s ride was a huge victory for the sport following the postponement of the 2020 edition of the Longines FEI Endurance World Championships due to Covid-19.