Sheikh Hamdan races to victory at the World Equestrian Games

How Dubai’s long-standing love affair with the Arabian horse paved the way for the Crown Prince of Dubai’s victory at the WEG

After a gruelling 160km of sweat, tears and mud, in which 136 riders failed to finish, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, took gold in the endurance event at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.

The prince and his 15-year-old bay mare Yamamah loped across the line in a time of 8 hours 8 minutes and 28 seconds. The Dutch rider Marike Visser finished second, with a time of 8 hours 19 minutes and 17 seconds.

Riders from 47 countries gathered at just after sunrise for the gruelling course of five looped circuits that stretched from the Lucerne Forest to the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. Wet weather added to the challenging route, which was described by competitors as “very technical”, with constantly changing conditions including dust, mud and wet sand.

The race is known for its relentless terrain and Sheikh Hamdan’s horse was slowed on the second stage after she lost two shoes. Injury and lameness claimed many of the other horses and only 35 from an original field of 165 riders finished. Others, including four of those from the Emirati team, were prevented from completing the race after failing the stringent veterinary checks for fitness at the end of each stage.

Sheikh Hamdan said, “I was in a good position when all my teammates were eliminated.” He added, “Still, it was important for me to keep my focus on the race and preserve my horse.”

The captain of the Emirati team His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai said, “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.”