The Dubai royal family will bid to cement the UAE's position at the top of the endurance riding field this afternoon when they compete on the second day the 2010 World Equestrian Games at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, leads his sons Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Majid in a five-man team that will compete against 29 other nations over the challenging, 160km endurance course. Sheikh Rashid Dalmouk Al Maktoum and Ali Mohammed al Muhairi make up the rest of the side.
Sheikh Mohammed led home his sons when they won the Stars Challenge race at Austin Park in England on July 25, a success that makes the region favourites to win the punishing race. "The team have prepared as best they can," said Mohammed Essa, the assistant team manager. "The Americans, France and Spain are probably our major rivals. They are the strongest three teams in a very strong field. The reason that we are here is to win and if they ride as best they can then we can do it."
The race, sponsored by Meydan Racecourse, consists of six loops of varying distances, with each loop starting and finishing at the compound's Forego Polo Field. All riders start at the same time, and there are five mandatory veterinary stops. The winner is judged by completing the course in the shortest time, which is likely to be around the 12-hour mark. Endurance riding is the ultimate test of speed and stamina for a racehorse and jockey combination, as it requires the riders to understand their mount's abilities.
"The course is hard," Essa said. "They have put in obstacles, tunnels and rivers. It is very challenging, and it makes it so important to make the right move at the right time." The ruler of Dubai, who rides Arcadienne, has not raced competitively since his victory in England, but Essa does not believe that to be a problem. "From the end of July he has just been preparing himself, not necessarily just for this event, but for the rest of the year.
"He loves the horses and the sport. He is totally in touch with all the best practices and training methods. Sheikh Hamdan is the same. It's in his blood after all." Due to the hardy nature of the breed, the majority of competitors, including the UAE, will race on pure-bred Arabians. The rest will challenge on Anglo-Arabs, which are half thoroughbred on the distaff side, and half Arabian. The Games run until October 10, during which time 54 national federations will compete in eight equestrian disciplines, including dressage, driving, eventing, jumping, reining and vaulting.