Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum continued a family tradition in winning the Longines FEI World Endurance Championship at Euston Park in Britain on Saturday.
Sheikh Mohammed, whose son Sheikh Ahmed won the world individual title in 2002, rode Madji Du Pont to win the 160km Championship with a strong finish at an average speed of 22.82km/hr. He rode the final 20km loop at 27.6km/hr to finish ahead of his countrymen HE Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum (Yamamah) and Ali Ahalfan Al Jahouri (Vendaval). Former World Champion, Spain’s Maria Alvarez Ponton came fourth with Nobby after a fine performance from the evergreen 17-year-old victor in Kentucky in 2010 and Malaysia in 2012.
It was a convincing win by the UAE riders viewed as the strongest in the sport. The team of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum and Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum also won the team competition in style completing a full two hours ahead of France with Oman in third, the USA in fourth and Belgium in fifth.
A world class field of 147 riders and 29 teams lined up for the championships near Thetford, Suffolk over what was widely viewed as a deceptively tough course which took in a variety of terrain from forest tracks to grassland and sand. Weather conditions, which had been forecast as potentially disruptive, held off for the majority of the ride with warm sunshine sending riders off on the trail at the 7am mass start.
However, thunderstorms and torrential rain in the later stages of the event forced organisers to take the unprecedented step of halting the event on safety grounds with officials bringing a “formula one motor racing” end to the ride, enabling riders to ride into the vetgate ahead of them and enter their horse for a final inspection without completing the full 160km.
Speaking after the ride, Sheikh Mohammed told reporters: “I only ever compete because I enjoy taking part in endurance. I do not go out to get a result, I go out to have fun. I do not try to change position but ride my own ride.
“My horse gave me a wonderful ride – all the way through he felt incredible. I am very pleased with the result.
“I thought that the rain could make the course slippery which was another reason to take it steadily.”
Sheikh Mohammed is married to FEI President Princess Haya of Jordan.
Commenting on the strong performance of the gold medal winning UAE team, Saeed H Al Tayer, Chef d’ Equipe of the UAE, said: “We are proud to be a part of this elite World Championships.
“A great deal of training and preparation has guided the team through this technically challenging course and today’s weather conditions. The calibre of riders is high and competition fierce but the team has stayed focused throughout the loops and ensured the safety and welfare of the horses at all times.
“Euston Park is a beautiful venue and the UAE riders have enjoyed navigating the terrain: forests, rivers and farmland. To have achieved Individual first, second and third is an incredible result for the UAE and we are extremely proud of the riders and crew involved.”
The event was marred by the fatal injury of Dutch horse Karrimh, who stumbled on the first loop and was euthanised. No further details of the incident have been released.