Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed produced a riding masterclass on Yamamah to win the endurance gold medal at the Altech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy on Thursday.
The Dubai Crown Prince battled through rain and muddy conditions after his four teammates fell out of contention in one go at the end of the third loop, finishing first in a field of 173 riders from 47 nations.
Sheikh Hamdan completed the gruelling, 160-kilometre trip in 8 hours, 8 minutes and 28 seconds, then had to spend some anxious moments until the 15-year-old bay mare cleared the final veterinary test and the celebration began in the UAE camp. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who attended the race, was full of praise for his son.
“I used to give them [the UAE riders] instructions and advise during the races, but I have stopped that now, because they are now well-versed and very experienced riders and can read the situation of the race,” Sheikh Mohammed told TV cameras afterward.
“The race was made tough because of the rain and heavy underfoot conditions resulting in several eliminations. It takes a good horse and a good rider to win in such conditions.
“Sheikh Hamdan rode his own race. He made the right calculations and decisions to win a tough race. I have been following Yamamah very closely. She never runs a bad race and handled the tough conditions remarkably well today.”
All the UAE riders were well-placed until the end of the third loop.
Sheikh Hamdan led from the start, with Sheikh Dalmook Al Maktoum on Nopoli Del Ma and Ali Khalfan Al Jahouri onboard Moota Hadeea trailing in second and fourth, respectively.
The other two Emirati riders, Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri aboard Quran El Ulm and Saeed Mohammed Khalifa Al Mehairi on Kedjari Des Serres, were occupying the 15th and 19th positions.
But all four of their horses were eliminated for metabolic reasons or lameness.
Sheikh Hamdan was more than 17 minutes ahead of the Netherlands’ Marijke Visser, riding Laiza De Jalima, who finished second after the four riders ahead of her were eliminated at the end of the third lap. “I was in a good position when all my teammates were eliminated,” said Sheikh Hamdan, who won a trial race on the course last year, albeit on a different mount.
“Still, it was important for me to keep my focus on the race and preserve my horse.” Sheikh Hamdan said after that victory that “it was a very good course.
“It was technically challenging and needed an experienced rider who thinks, and that’s what will be needed for next year, too.”
He also rode Yamamah to a victory in the Royal Windsor endurance ride on May 14.
At one point, Visser closed the lead to less than 11 minutes, but that was as close as she got on the 10-year-old grey mare.
Qatari rider Abdulrahman Saad Al Sulaiteen, aboard Koheilan Kinsco, came from well back to take the bronze ahead of Barbara Lissarrague of Switzerland and her mount, Preume De Paute.
Dubai-based Spaniard Jaume Punti Dachs, aboard Novisaad D’Aqui, was among the 10 riders who completed the grinding endurance event.
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