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A Brief History of HH President's Cup Endurance Race

The 2005 running of HH President's Cup Endurance Race at the Emirates International Endurance Village represents a continuation of the premier invitational event in Abu Dhabi UAE. This year has special significance as it represents the first running of the race since the 11 Nov 2004 death of His Highness Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the First President of the United Arab Emirates.

This brief history of the previous running sof this event highlight the special significance which HH President's Cup holds within the endurance community of the UAE and within the memories of those who have run this race over the past 5 years.

HH The Presidents Cup: 24 January 2000

In this inaugural event had a cast of 14 national and 22 international riders who took part. The best from the UAE withstood the challenge from the best of the world. Over the last few kilometres the lead changed several times between Hassan Bin Ali riding the Australian bred Karabil Narmar for HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Abdullah Khamis Ali Saeed on Al Reef's Ben Salou.

In the sprint to the line Saeed gained a couple of lengths advantage to win by 26 seconds. His ride time was 07:49:13 having averaged 20.46kph.

The winner of the National Day Cup, HE Sheikh Ahmed Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, whom many thought would take The Cup, finished third on another Australian bred horse, Oak Lyn Lassiter.

At one time it had looked as if the victory might have gone overseas as Spain's Merce Oms Molise, at that time the reigning Junior European Champion. Merce had been up with the leading pair over the last two loops. But her determined bid ended three kilometres from the finish where she retired an exhausted Luzan.

The top international rider was American Darolyn Butler riding her own Conquistador followed a few minutes later by the young Australian rider Shannon Parker on Stanpark Ginnis. Her father Martin, who is currently training for HH Sheikh Hamdan, finished ninth on Penbac Park Caleb. The other foreign rider to make the top ten was Saudi Arabia's leading rider Tarek Taher on Java in seventh place.

The Best Condition award went to Faigh (Australian bred Ravlon Reflex) ridden into tenth place by HH General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum whose son HE Sheikh Hamdan finished sixth on Maasha-Allah (Ali-Leujah).

HH The President's Cup: 08 February 2001

The following year Hassan Bin Ali made up for his defeat when he won in superb style on Salah El Saadran. This time the challenge was in house as the first two horses were from the stable of HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Bin Ali crossed the line hand in hand with AliAl Muhairi riding Zeyb Sha Zam.

There ride time was 08:09:51 having averaged 19.60kph. Third place went to the first international rider Maya Killa Perringerard from France, the reigning World Champion at that time who was almost 30 minutes behind the winner.

Last of the 15 riders to complete two hours after the winner had finished, was Khalifa bin Ghalaita on W.M.Show Stopper for the UAE.

HH The President's Cup: 7 February 2002

2002 was a home win in a strongly fought out finish between HE Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid AL Maktoum aboard Muta Aaud and Al Wathba rider Shareef Mohammed Abdulla Al Baloushi on the Australian bred Rowallan Domino.

Of the 46 starters 20 were international, a single representative from the UK, Jordan and Australia, six French and seven Spanish. The four strong team from the USA included Dr Marcia Smith on her 2001 Tevis Cup winner Saamson CC, they finished 14th and the 2001 Pan American Champion duo of Heather Bergantz on Crystals Charm who finished 11th.

The course designed by Mubarak Al Arti consisted of five loops, 37,37,36,32 and 18km. This included a steep hilly section through the dunes, christened Tora Bora, and some pretty deep sand. The early leader HH Sheikh Rashid Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum slowed on the final stage, which allowed his brother and Baja to overtake him. The leading pair produced a racecourse finish along the final 3km straight.

It was tight right to the line but Baja won by eighteen seconds having completed the ride in an averaged of 19.01 kph. Third home was another Abu Dhabi rider, Ahmed Mohammed Jasim Al Hammandi riding Centre Czar for Al Reef. The highest placed International rider, in 6th place, was Frenchman Yvon Ollivier riding HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Fire Light Amour. HE Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan finished 9th on his own Mountain Mustard. The last rider to finish was Australian terry Wood on Al Wathba's Kelkette Park Discovery in an average speed of 13.13kph.

HH The President's Cup: 20 February 2003

This was a remarkable back to back win for Al Baloushi and Rowallan Domino in this the only 160km ride staged in the UAE during the 2002/03 season .

The international cast of 69 riders included the six strong North American squad, which included three of their team from the 2002 World Equestrian Games. Beverly Grey on Regalidon who finished 13th, Cia Reis riding Catch A Wave who was 31st just ahead of Steve Rojek on Smoke Rise Finally, which put the team in fifth place overall.

They were backed here in the UAE by a hefty task force, which included two veterinarians and Mary Lutz, USET Director of Endurance. The Americans Chased the rabbit, Spaniard Cesar Torras, at more than 21kph over the two initial stages proved to be an unwise move. Little did they know that Torras planned to retire after the second leg. Potato Richardson on his home bred mare SMR Fayette De Cameo found this desert course a far cry from his home track the Tevis which he has won twice and ridden on numerous occasions.

With the American challenge a thing of the past, attention was centered on the challenge between the reigning World Champion HE Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Al Reef's Abdullah Khamis Ali Saeed and Al Wathba's Shareef Mohammed Abdulla Al Baloushi, the defending President's Cup Winner. After leg three, the sand hills of Tora Bora, HE Sheikh Ahmed commented, "This stage is a marathon in itself."

HE Sheikh Ahmed made his move in the fifth leg as he established a three-minute lead over Al Baloushi. His horse the Spanish bred Lahi Da Fiqueireda passed the initial vetting after this leg but then a major upset occurred as he was eliminated on lameness at the compulsory re-inspection. This left the field wide open for the Abu Dhabi riders to take the title.

The ending was a repeat version of the National Day Cup in December 2002, with Al Baloushi and Ali Saeed hand in hand coming into the finish, holding the UAE flag between them. This time the tables were reversed with Al Baloushi taking the honours and Ali Saeed the runner up by a tenth of a second.

The winning time was 7:24:55. HE Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan was delighted with his stable success, "Today's ride was very challenging. The windy conditions also made it difficult."

This championship ride highlighted Australia's success as breeders, 11 of the 25 horses that finished were bred in Australia. These included the winner Rowallan Domino bred by Deirdre Hayes and the winner of the Best Condition award seventh placed Ravlon Link bred by veteran Quilty rider Ron Males.

HH The President's Cup: 19 February 2004

In 2004, Al Wathba, the endurance stable of HE Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Director General of The President's office, maintained their unblemished record in their current dominance Presidents Cup. Al Wathba took on some of the World's best to retain this coveted trophy in anew record time for 160km of 07:20:00.

The line up of 79 starters from 19 countries included a third of the top thirty riders in the 2003 FEI World Ranking. The Al Wathba's winning combination of 25 year old Abdul Rahim Helal Al Juneibi and the bay gelding Super had triumphed three weeks earlier in the Gulf Cup. They finished second in the National Day Cup in December 2003.

As the two Al Wathba riders rode down the finishing straight together with UAE flags held aloft it looked as if Shareef Mohammed Abdullah Al Baloushi, leading rider in the UAE season 2002/03, was going to enter the record book with a trio of back to back wins. But as they crossed the line Juneibi was a length clear, then a further misfortune befell Baloushi as his horse Joost failed the final trot up on.

A delighted Mubarak Khalifa Bin Shafya, who had finished six minutes later, was promoted to second place with the USA bred Comes the Dawn who was previously a successful race horse in the UAE for her owner HE Sheikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum.

Many of the UAE star riders failed to finish these included the then reigning World Champion HE Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who retired after the third leg as did HE Sheikh Hazza Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and HE Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan winner of the second round of the Triple Crown the previous month, who went out after leg two. Al Reef's Abdullah Khamis Ali Saeed, second last year and the winner in 2000, was running fifth on Ravlon Link until he trotted up lame after stage five.

Ali Saeed's great partner Shah had been loaned by Al Reef to HE Sheikh Rashid Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum who retired after leg four and Ali Khalfan Al Jahouri, Al Wathba's trainer in Al Ain, who had been plagued with untimely vet outs, was eliminated in pole position with just 16km to run.

On the international front dual world champion Valerie Kanavy had a rough ride on her daughter's nine year old grey In the Cards. Kanavy finished the opening 34km leg with blisters on her hands and gave up the fight over the next 32km. Letting him gallop away, at times cruising at the alarming speed of 40kph, this runaway leg escalated Kanavy from 39th place into the lead.

It was the end of the road at the next vet check for In The Cards due to metabolic parameters, which was no surprise to Kanavy, "He was going too fast and that took its toll." The two other USA riders also failed to finish. Winner of 2003 Tevis Heather Bergantz Reynolds was out after the second leg and young Alexander Luck riding her excitable Arab mare Mommesin retired during leg three and having fallen from her horse suffering from heat stroke

For other Internationals, their visit to Emirates International Endurance Village ended with a successful finish. Australian Penny Toft, who stood fifth in 2003 FEI world ranking, was riding her favorite horse Al Reef's Phantasm DJ whom she had trained previously in Australia. They finish seventh earning Toft the position of the highest placed international rider not resident in the UAE.

The two French riders that finished were the 2003 European Champions, Virginie Simon, 11th with Piacenza and Joel Marescassier ranked 15th in the world last year finished 23rd with Alamanda. South African Pauline Du Plessis finished 13th on the Anglo Arab mare Faras Ayhla she had sold to Al Reef. UK rider Cathy Brown who has won two of the top French rides, Florac and Montcuq, finished 16th on her homebred mare Arques Khazana who is by the outstanding French sire of endurance horses, Persik and who has since been purchased by HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The last horse home just over four and half hours behind the winner was Anzag Mehmoud in a ride time of 11:51:32. Michael Stone from the FEI commented the strict but fair vetting had contributed to the low completion rate. He was pleased that no horse had needed treating in the clinic and that the horses brought forward for Best Condition horses looked remarkably well considering they had completed at such a high speed .

This esteemed award was also captured by Al Wathba with the chestnut mare Ro Fabiola who had finished fourth with Hassan Abdulla Yousef Al Hammadi. Obaid Al Jaber President of the sponsor Al Jaber presented the awards along side HE Sheikh Hazza and HE Sheikh Mansoor.

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