Sheikh Rashid destroyed the opposition at the Emirates Airlines Challenge Punchestown CEI** in Ireland

Torrential rain did not prevent Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum from cruising to an easy victory in the first Emirates Airlines Challenge CEI** in Punchestown.

He proved his versatility once again, negotiating the technical and sticky 120km track with his father’s Lahi da Figuerieda, who led all the way at an average speed of 17.23km/hr.

He finished a full 38min ahead of his brother Sheikh Hamdan and the French-trained veteran Canelle Rio. Valerie Kanavy of the USA came third on Gazy de Lux, a horse loaned to her for the event by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Sheikh Rashid said: “The race was pretty slow. The course was brilliant but a little bit slippery and I had to take it carefully in places. This mare is extremely good and could be one for the World Championships, but I have an even more special horse in Provocative (winner of last year’s European Championships).”

Encouragingly, three British riders held their own against some top class competition. Katie Smith riding her father Bill Smith’s 14-year-old Shatamah came fifth, crossing the line neck and neck with Faisal Seddiq Al Mutawa and Simply The Best in fourth.

Sarah Kelleway, who rode an intelligent race with the diminutive but tough IbnAswana, came sixth and scooped the best condition award while Beccy Broughton, who was riding her promising grey mare Zapala, came through to collect 13th place.

The final two riders home, Charles Spence of Ireland with Delorto Zaranz and Britain’s Derek Francis with Simbar, crossed the line together just inside the time, having walked the last loop, to finish in 14th and 15th places.

World Masters Series update

The Emirates Airlines Challenge at Punchestown was the first FEI Emirates Endurance World Masters series event outside mainland Europe. Riders are allocated points, which go towards the final placing at the end of the year.

To be eligible for final masters classifications, and a chance to compete in the final at the World Cup in Dubai next spring, a rider has to achieve a minimum of 225 points.

At Punchestown, Katie Smith picked up 51 points for her fifth placing, while Sarah Kelleway and Beccy Broughton collected 48 points and 32 points respectively.

The next World Masters Series Event takes place in Perugia, Italy, this weekend.

Read the full report in next week’s Horse & Hound (30 May), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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