On February 1st, the Governorate of Al Ula in Saudi Arabia hosted the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup. 189 horses and riders arriving from various parts of the region participated in this race across the stunning rocky landscapes of Al Ula’s desert, a desert rich in history and archeological treasures. On a beautiful winter’s morning at 7.30 AM, horses and riders began their journey through a dreamlike landscape, right when the sun began to emit its heavenly rays of light, igniting the desert, and initiating the race with its much-needed warmth.
Shortly after the race began, the participants spread out across the desert running on different speeds, making a clear distinction between those who wanted to finish the race and those who wanted to lead it. The ground for the horses was smooth for the most part with deep sand and irregular terrain in some of the areas. The terrain was particularly challenging for the crew teams who had to navigate this magnificent but at times tricky landscapes to arrive at the designated crew points.
After more than 7 hours of intense competition, the victory was for Sh Hamdam bin Mohammed al Maktoum and his mare Utoufa de Lap (F3 Stables), with a fast final loop at more than 30km/h. He was followed by Saif Almazrui riding Razorback Mechano (MRM Stables) and Saeed Ahmad Alharbi riding Alhambra Latiffe (F3 Stables). It is noteworthy that all three horses have had a successful career in endurance races prior to this race. It has been the second consecutive year that the riders from the United Arab Emirates win this prestigious cup. In the past edition, the victory was for M7 stables led by the trainer Mohammed Al Saboosi and their rider Salem Malhoof at a speed of 27.1 with his horse Blakeridge Indigo.
It was the first time that Sh Hamdan participated in this event as a rider, although he did attend the event last year along with his father H.H Sheikh Mohammed supporting with their presence and participation in the cup the recent efforts of Saudi Arabia to promote endurance racing in the Kingdom. Sh Hamdan was quoted in the Khaleej Times journal expressing his feeling of respect and appreciation for Saudi Arabia saying, “If you open my heart, you will find Saudi Arabia in my heart. This reflects how much we love Saudi Arabia. Saudis are Emiratis and Emiratis are Saudis. We are one people.” In the same article, he praised the unique terrain of this desert in particular.
Saudi Arabia appears to be a highly desired destination for future competitions and we are excited to see that many riders and teams chose Setzi saddles for their journey across the beautiful desert of Al-Ula. We look forward to acquainting ourselves further with its geography, people and most importantly horses!