Dubai: Jaume Punti Dachs, a veteran endurance rider and trainer, clinched the gold medal at the FEI World Endurance Championship in Samorin, Slovakia, as a spirited performance by the UAE’s Saif Ahmad Al Mazroui and Ganem Abdullah Al Merri, ended in heartache at the final vet gate.
Triumphantly waving the UAE flag, Al Mazroui crossed the finish line first following a final loop cat and mouse battle with Uruguay’s Jonatan Rivera Iriarte, only to see his horse, Napoli Del Ma, disqualified due to an imperfect gait.
Iriarte’s horse, LG Muneerah, suffered a similar fate which left third placed Emirati rider Al Merri in the number spot and anxiously awaiting the vet results. But as luck would have it.
Quran El Ulm was found to have a metabolic condition and was also disqualified.
Dach’s horse, the nine-year-old grey gelding Twyst Maison Blanche, passed the vet test ensuring he would emulate his wife, Maria Alvarez Ponton, who was a two-time World Endurance Championship in 2008 and 2010.
“This is so emotional … I had a young horse and he did really very well on the course,” said Dachs.
“That was the most important that he managed the race so well. Unfortunately we had bad luck as my wife Maria got out on the second loop but we have to deal with it.”
Spain’s Alex Moral Luque was awarded second place and Bahrain’s Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa the bronze.
Dachs covered the 160km course, which took the 136-strong field of riders from 46 countries, over a challenging but scenic route that followed the historic Danube River, in a time of six hours, 46 minutes and 42 seconds.
Compatriot Moral clocked 06:47:32 and Al Khalifa 6:49:47.
The UAE went into the ride as the strong favourites with Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, hoping to repeat his world championship victory of 2014.
Shaikh Hamdan led for the first three loops over 40km, 35km, 35km, before he dropped to second place behind Al Mazroui, winner of the Royal Windsor Cup in the UK earlier this year.
But his horse, Ramaah, was vetted out at the fourth vet check having displayed an uneven gait during the trot up.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with Shaikh Hamdan and Saif Ahmad Al Mazroui at the FEI World Endurance Championships in Samorin, Slovakia. - Twitter/Dubai Media Office
Two other UAE riders, Shaikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum and Shaikh Hamad Dalmook Al Maktoum, were also eliminated during the vet checks.
From the field of 133 who started the ride at Samorin, only 64 riders completed the course.
In the sport of endurance, horses are thoroughly checked by a vet at the end of each loop to ensure it is fit to continue in the competition.
Shaikh Mohammad is briefed by Saif Ahmad Al Mazroui, who finished the ride in first place but was disqualified following a vet check. Al Mazroui crossed the finish line first only to see his horse, Napoli Del Ma, disqualified due to an imperfect gait. - Dubai Media Office / Twitter