Team UAE make a clean sweep to clinch Endurance Cup honours in Italy

Kelly Ann Clarke
Filed on September 1, 2013
Team UAE make a clean sweep to clinch Endurance Cup honours in Italy

Team UAE reigned victorious on Saturday at the Horse Country Endurance Cup held in Sardinia, Italy a first for the autonomous Italian region with Dubai-based horses and riders snapping up the top three places of the tough 120-km race.

Team UAE make a clean sweep to clinch Endurance Cup honours in Italy (/assets/oldimages/kelly_0109.jpg)The winning horse pictured during the Endurance Cup in Italy.

With competitors from the UAE, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Algeria all vying for the top spot, it was the strength and agility of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai’s; horses that proved winner worthy.

Crossing the finishing line first at 14.08pm – nine and a half minutes ahead of the runner up and just over six hours after setting off – was Saeed Mohammed Khalifa Al Mehairi from MRM Stables in Dubai. Wearing the number 15 jersey and riding Qaid Larzac, Al Mehairi had a tense wait to confirm his winning position as the vets checked over the horse, but as the thumbs up were given, the rider and his team erupted into cheers and began throwing water over each other in celebration.

Speaking to Khaleej Times following the victory, Al Mehairi remained modest about the win. “For me this is a happy moment. It is my first win and I will celebrate back home.”

Kicking off at 8am, the 28 competitors set off at high speed along the sandy terrain.

Shaikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum, who pulled out in the second round after his horse received an injury to his front leg, remained upbeat, despite his early exit. “I was not surprised the horse went lame, because the speed in the first round was way too high”, and the reason for this, he told Khaleej Times, was down to tactics.

”If you see a horse going in front, you always want to get in front of it. In the past, the winner would always come from behind, but now that never happens. The winners should always be somewhere near the front”.

But with his young team-mate taking the top spot, Shaikh Rashid, wearing the number 17 jersey, said he felt “like a winner”.

“Celebrations will be having a nice dinner. That’s the best celebration you can have,” he said.

With the race route comprising of four separate phases of 40km, 25km, 30km and 25km tracks respectively, setting the pace so high in round one – the toughest of the routes - proved too much for some, with 10 horses pulling out before the finish, including six in rounds one and two.

But speed was the only thing against the riders according to Shaikh Rashid, who said the ground was “perfect”, adding that it was “probably one of the best circuits he has ridden in Italy, maybe even Europe.” Head coach to three of the UAE’s competing horses at the Endurance Cup, including the winner as well as Shaikh Rashid’s horse Infinitely Gold, Ismail Mohammed said Saturday’s race was “fast” but he was “so pleased” Qaid Larzec won as he was in “very good shape.”

“He is a very young horse and he is only going to get better”.

And with a winning performance now under his belt, Mohammed hopes Qaid Larzac will be able to repeat the victory at the European Championships.

This year’s race is part of the Sardegna Endurance Lifestyle 2013 organised by the Sardinia Region and in association with Meydan. Held at the Horse Country Resort, west of the autonomous region, the event, founded by Shaikh Mohammed, aims to strengthen the bond between the UAE and Italy, with hopes of bringing in more UAE tourists to the Mediterranean’s second largest island.

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