Mohamed Abdulhameed Al Hashemi from Bahrain held off a strong Spanish challenge to claim overall victory in the 2023 edition of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup, the flagship endurance equestrian event which took place at Saudi Arabia’s ancient city of AlUla, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra.
Al Hashemi completed the four loops of the challenging 120km route on his ride Leon in a classified time of 05:47:54, at an average speed of 20.696 km/h, finishing 20 minutes ahead of Spain’s Maria Ponton Alvarez, the highest placed female in second place on Bolchoi El Akim (+00:20:01) and her compatriot Omar Rodrigo Blanco on JM El Sobrino in third (+00:20:02).
The fourth edition of the world-class event was held in the presence of HH Prince Abdullah bin Fahd bin Abdullah Al Saud, President of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation. HH Prince Abdullah presented trophies to all three podium finishers, AlHashemi, Alvarez and Blanco, alongside Amr AlMadani, CEO for the Royal Commission of AlUla (RCU), and Gérard Mestrallet, Executive Chairman AFALULA.
HH Prince Abdullah bin Fahd bin Abdullah Al Saud, president of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation said: “I congratulate this year’s champion and all those who participated this year on this extremely beautiful yet challenging route.
“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup is one of the biggest endurance events on the Saudi Equestrian calendar and this year’s event underlines Saudi Arabia’s journey as a leading hub for equestrianism, and as a host for major international events.”
Amr AlMadani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla, said: “This event put the eyes of the equestrian world on AlUla and we are delighted that this year produced such high quality action.
“This edition was also special as it highlighted the extensive efforts being made to develop the equestrian space in AlUla, with real evidence of our commitment to creating a working hub, developing local talent and building an end to end experience for equestrian sport and leisure in AlUla.”
Al Hashemi, the Endurance Cup champion for 2023, was delighted with the performance. He said: “It was much hotter than I expected, and the terrain was very difficult but thanks to God, my training team and the support of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation, I was able to succeed.
“I would also like to thank the support of the Royal Commission for AlUla for their dedicated support and hard work to make this week so special for riders, horses, crews and equestrian community,” he added.
Spaniard Alvarez, who finished runner up for a Spanish one-two, said: “It was a really good week, it was a true endurance test and this week was really perfect. We came here to run our race and we wanted to do it our way, and now we can relax and enjoy the moment.”
This year saw five local riders participating as part of the development programme under RCU’s equine strategy which offered training, advice and technical support as well as extensive competitive experience. Underlining RCU efforts to empower and involve the AlUla community as part of its wider equine objectives, 40 locals also participated in stewarding and vet assistance roles on the event after being shortlisted from a group of over 80 youths for a rigorous training programme in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation ahead of the event.