Meydan Group has raised the prize money for HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup to $2.6 million and launched a series of endurance races in Europe to promote the equestrian sport.
“We feel that endurance has been left out so the prize money was enhanced to benchmark with other sports,” said Saeed Humaid Al Tayer, chairman of the Meydan, which also hosts the world’s richest horse race.
Presented by Longines and organised by the Dubai Equestrian Club, the eight edition of the most prestigious event in the endurance calendar has attracted over 250 entries including 35 international riders from 20 countries.
Each foreign rider, except Gulf Arab nationals, who complete the challenging 160km Endurance Cup will receive Dh100,000.
About 190 riders are expected to participate after the pre-ride session at the Dubai International Endurance City.
“For us the welfare of the horses is very important and we want to achieve the highest completion possible,” Tayer told a news conference at the Meydan racecourse on Thursday.
The new series of endurance races will be held in Britain, France, Italy and Spain in 2015 and culminate in Dubai next year to help develop the sport, he added.
Meydan Group and the UAE’s support of endurance riding is to be extended in 2015 and beyond with sponsorship of the 2015 FEI World Endurance Championship for Young Riders and Juniors to be held in Chile.
The top-finishing horse-and-rider combinations from the four European rides will earn automatic entries into the 2016 HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup.
Later in the year the endurance community will travel to Chile, where the FEI World Endurance Championship for Young Riders & Juniors will be held under the sponsorship of the Meydan Group.
The championship will be staged on October 23-24 near the coastal town of Santo Domingo.
The UAE has an excellent record in the top-tier of endurance riding with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai earning the title in 2012 and Dubai Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum claiming the same honour in 2014. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum earned the title as World Champion in 2002.
Long distance riding, where horses complete the course in loops with periodic veterinary checks, has been thriving in the Middle East and especially in the United Arab Emirates.
Al Tayer said: “With these key announcements we underline our long-term commitment to the development of endurance riding. UAE and the Meydan Group support and promote the sport, both within our borders and around the world and this is a key factor in the success of the world’s most prominent endurance competitions.
“The development of the International Endurance Series will add even greater global significance to the already-established CEI 3* HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup presented by Longines.
“It is part of our undertaking to continually develop and promote endurance riding around the world. Through the Meydan Group’s sponsorship of the FEI World Endurance Championship for Young Riders and Juniors in Chile this year, we are also helping to develop the next generation of elite senior competitors.
“We look forward to a very busy and exciting couple of years in endurance riding, starting with the HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup presented by Longines, this Saturday.”