Thursday, December 14, 2006
UAE sheikh beats fellow royals in desert equestrian endurance race
The Associated Press
DOHA, Qatar: Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum, a member of the United Arab Emirates ruling family, outrode a collection of fellow Gulf state royalty Thursday to win the grueling Asian Games equestrian endurance race.
The last full day of Asian Games competition got off to an early beginning as 51 horses and riders lined up for a dawn mass start in the dunes outside this desert city.
Horse racing has been dubbed The Sport of Kings, and the endurance race comes closest to that billing, with several members of Dubai's ruling Al Maktoum family taking part, as well as members of the Saudi Arabian royal family and Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the son of Qatar's ruling emir.
Sheikh Rashid, son of the crown prince of Dubai, finished the 120-kilometer (74.5-mile) five-stage event in a total time of 5 hours, 45 minutes and 49 seconds for the gold, ahead of Bahrain's Sheikh Nasser Bin Hammad Bin Isa Al Khalifa and Dubai businessman Sultan Bin Sulayem.
Sheikh Rashid, riding his father's favorite horse Nashimi, added the Doha gold to his 2003 European Championships title.
Endurance racing, a popular sport in the desert nations of the Middle East and north Africa, made its debut at these games. South Korea, competing on Qatari horses, and Malaysia were the only non-Arabic nations competing in the event.
Heavy rain before the start made the going difficult at the Mesaieed desert course that tests the competitors and their mounts over five loops, each between 20 kilometers and 30 kilometers (12.5 miles and 16.5 miles) in length.
"The course is very hard to ride, the most difficult I have been on because the footing is unpredictable," said Al Thani early in the race.