Dubai: Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, will be hoping to repeat his landmark 2014 victory as he leads a strong UAE team in the Longines FEI World Endurance Championship in Slovakia today.
Shaikh Hamdan, who will start the 160km ride at the state-of-the-art Samorin Equestrian Centre as the huge favourite, produced a breathtaking ride on Yamamah to win the gold in Normandy, France two years ago.
In what is often described as one of his best performances, Shaikh Hamdan and Yamamah overcame rain and testing conditions to triumph over a world-class field of 173 riders from 47 nations at the historic venue.
On Saturday, he will be joined by four of the UAE’s finest horsemen as bids to give the UAE a fourth individual gold in the event following victories by his father, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who was triumphant at Euston Park, Great Britain in 2012 and his younger brother Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the shock winner at Jerez, Spain in 2002.
Season riders Shaikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum, Shaikh Hamad Dalmook Al Maktoum, Saif Al Mazroui and Abdullah Ghanim Al Merri, together with Shaikh Hamdan, form a formidable line-up determined to win a fourth team gold for the UAE following victories in 2008 (Terengganu, Malaysia), 2010 (Lexington, USA) and 2012 (Euston Park).
Together the UAE squad take on 136 of the most accomplished endurance riders from 46 countries over a challenging but scenic route over countryside that follows the route of the Danube River, the longest river within today’s European Union and second-longest on the continent.
Following a 6am mass start, the riders will negotiate five loops of 40km, 35km, 35km, 30km and 20km each.
Horses will undergo a mandatory vet check at the end of each loop to ensure they are fit and healthy to continue in the competition.
Mohammed Essa Al Adhab, General Manager of the Dubai Equestrian Club, a subsidiary of Meydan Group, said: “United under the strong leadership of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE has a great chance in this competition.
“We are fielding a vastly experienced team who are all accustomed to competing together and have experienced success at the highest levels. They are all accomplished horsemen who understand the demands of competing on the international stage.”
FEI Endurance Director Manuel Bandeira de Mello said: “We have the best endurance athletes on the planet competing in the Longines FEI World Endurance Championships on Saturday [today]. The world’s top endurance athletes get to compete at this level only every two years, at either the World Endurance Championships which coincide with the Olympic cycle, or at the FEI World Equestrian Games.
“Endurance is the fastest growing FEI discipline and at Šamorín we have 46 out of a total of 53 countries currently involved in international endurance competitions.
“We’re all looking forward to seeing these athletes showcase this incredible sport, which is a real test of the partnership between the horse and the rider, and the ability to cross all kinds of terrain.”