Ponton facing a stiff challenge in Al Wathba for 90km race
ABU DHABI // Maria Alvarez Ponton, the world champion from Spain, will be challenged by more than 30 Emirati women in the Al Jaber Challenge, a 90-kilometre CEI one-star endurance race tomorrow at the Emirates International Endurance Village (EIEV) in Al Wathba.
Ponton, who trains endurance horses in Dubai, won the world title from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in September. She heads a 70-runner, women-only field.
"We started with one race at Al Wathba two years ago and it doubled last year," said Adnan Sultan al Nuaimi, the secretary general of the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.
"We have two races already planned for the new season, and may have a third before the season ends.
"There is a lot of interest among the Emirati women to ride in competitions and the numbers are increasing at every race.
"There are more and more Emirati women now owning horses and we have received more than 30 entries for this race."
The EIEV will stage back-to-back races with a 100km CEI one-star ride exclusively for the private owners and stables for the Sheikh Zayed bin Mansour Cup on Saturday.
"We have received more than 120 entries and this race for the private owners and stables have become the most popular.
"When we first introduced this category four years ago, we had around 30 to 40 entries. Now it has crossed 120, which is nearly the number of an open event," added Lara Sawaya, the event director for the two races.
Updated: January 6, 2011 04:00 AM