ABU DHABI // Patience was the key for Ahmed Saeed al Faresi who won the Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Cup after the overnight leader Iqbal Khan's 11-year-old gelding Brookleigh Junior was vetted out for lameness in the final loop of the CEI Three-Star 240km race.
It was a close call for al Faresi, though. He had to overcome late challenges from Omair Hussain al Baloushi on Oh-Jay and teammate Thani Mohammed al Muhairi riding Akasha Sansation to win the feature prize of three-day Endurance Festival at the Bouthdib Endurance Village yesterday.
"Anyone in the top eight positions overnight could have won this race," said al Faresi, who covered the final day's 80km of the race in over three-and-a-half hours to complete the gruelling distance in 9hrs 57mins 42secs.
"The first two days was about working up to a good position. It was very close and exciting finish for a long distance race worked off over three days. The first four horses battled all the way to the finishing line, but it was my horse that stayed the strongest to win.
"That was not surprising because Ohio is a top-class horse and has won some top-class races in Europe when ridden by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed. I must thank Sheikh Hamdan for providing me the opportunity to ride this horse."
Ohio, an 11-year-old bay gelding, finished second in the 160km World Championship qualifier and was sixth behind Oh-Jay in the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup, a 160km CEI Three-Star race in January.
"He has run consistently well in all his races and we are all happy he ended the season on a high," said al Faresi, avenging his defeat to Oh-Jay in January.
Khan, the overnight leader, held a lead of more than 20 minutes but his horse was vetted out in the second last loop. And while the Indian work rider for the Dubai Endurance Stables held a sound lead, less than a minute separated the next seven riders.
"It was always going to be a close contest on the final day and certainly turned out to be closer than anyone would have guessed," al Faresi said.
Al Baloushi from the Al Reef Stables prevented a clean sweep for the Seih Al Salam Stables of Dubai by finishing ahead of the al Muhairi brothers Thani and Ali Mohammed who were third and fourth. Only 14 of the 60 starters completing the race.
The last rider to finish was Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, the King of the Malaysian State of Terengganu, who completed the race in 12.28.40 on Chalileo PDP.