Four horses trained in the Emaar, Fazaa and Seeh Al Saalam (SAS) stables of the ruling Maktoum family of Dubai were among the 10 involved in sanctions at a prestigious ride in in Abu Dhabi last week as the FEI ramps up rule-enforcement in endurance.
Six yellow warning cards were handed out, with 4 further horses disqualified for “not conforming to many rules”, at the prestigious 160km President’s Cup (14 February).
The previous weekend, a rider was handed a yellow card in Bahrain after a video showing his running groom beating the tiring horse caused outcry on social media.
These are the first yellow cards awarded in Middle East endurance in 11 months. Officials who “turn a blind eye” have been targeted by the Endurance Strategic Planning Group (ESPG) tasked with cleaning up doping and injuries.
The FEI declined to elaborate on the disqualifications, but told H&H 2 were for carrying incorrect weight.
Four of the yellow cards — 3 to riders in the top 10 — were for “unauthorised use of fluids” in vetgates, with 2 for “unauthorised assistance”.
One of the latter went to Abdullah Ghanim Al Marri, who was disqualified from his previous ride on 24 January for undisclosed rule breaches.
If fluids are administered in vetgates by stomach tube or intravenously, that breaches FEI veterinary regulations and should result in elimination.
Sheikh Mansour, ruler of Abu Dhabi, is understood to support the clean-up and to have encouraged the installation of the new closed circuit TV at vetgates and crew points.
A representative of Lord Stevens’ intelligence services company Quest, and FEI director of non-Olympic sports Ian Williams were present in Abu Dhabi to support officials.
The President’s Cup was won by Khalifa Ali Khalfan Al Jahouri, 15, on his Tarbes young riders champion Niac Armor. They averaged 26.4kph and pocketed £60,000, a Rolex watch and a car.
Only 47 of 127 starters completed.
The ESPG’s clean-up measures will be finalised on 29 April, when the FEI also votes on permitting Princess Haya — whose husband Sheikh Mohammed’s stables were at the centre of an endurance controversy (news, 19 September) — to stand a 3rd term as FEI president.