Spain’s Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton retained her world champion title by winning the 160km endurance race today at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

Maria (pictured above at a vetgate) rode her 2008 World Championship and 2009 European Championship winner Nobby to victory. Second at the first two vetgates, she took the lead at the third and held it thereafter. Her victory was all the more remarkable because she gave birth to a daughter only seven weeks ago.

“This is the most difficult race I’ve done with Nobby,” she said afterwards. “People say it’s flat, but it’s not flat at all. But for me, Nobby is the best horse in the world.”

Maria finished almost a minute ahead of the UAE’s individual rider Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Ciel Oriental), with his son Sheikh Hamdan Mohammed Al Maktoum (SAS Alexis) taking the bronze medal and leading the UAE to team gold. France collected team silver with Germany in bronze.

The British team finished sixth, brief hopes of a team bronze extinguished when Britain’s leading rider Ros Clapp’s ride Nazeeka was eliminated on metabolics on the reinspection at the final vetgate.

“She went really well and was doing 19kph, which was the speed I was aiming to do,” said Ros. “It’s a real shame not to complete but that’s the nature of the sport.”

However, all the other British riders finished, with the team claiming sixth. Christine Yeoman (left) crossed the line first, finishing 31st on LM Midday, and her brother-in-law David Yeoman was next, 35th on Haszar. Final team member Beccy Broughton-Booker (Java Sunlight, 40th) and individual Sarah Rogerson (FFC First Csea Lord, 43rd) finished within minutes of each other.

“I’m knackered, but it feels awesome to complete,” said Christine. “The course was fantastic and though I would have liked to go faster, LM Midday had other ideas and once I knew we didn’t have a team placing there wasn’t much point pushing it.”

Read a full report of the endurance in H&H next week, 30 September issue.