The “bogus” endurance ride mystery has taken a sensational new twist with the FEI decision to investigate allegations that results of a number of UAE races were “lifted” from previous FEI rides.
Now at least 12 rides in recent UAE seasons have been discovered to have identical data to previous rides on the FEI database.
When first asked about the “bogus” race on 21 January, the FEI explained it was properly entered in the calendar as a Presidents Cup qualifier and that paperwork was in order.
After evidence of duplicate data was shown to the FEI, it asked the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit, Quest, to investigate.
The data for 21 January, a 120km 2* race, is embedded in a 230-starter race from 19 December 2013. The speed and loop data of the “top three” are identical to the 13th, 14th, and 16th placed horses from 19 December, with the remaining 39 identical to completions further down the list.
Some horses — including Embrujo AG, subject of the scandal about duct-taping of blinkers — also ran in an 80k 1* qualifier on 23 December. All 47 completions of that ride have detailed data identical to the 10th to 56th placed horses at Bou Thib on November 22.
Most of 12 suspicious races are late additions to the FEI calendar and comprise 80km qualifiers with unusually high completion rates of 90-100%.
Most riders listed are solely from the UAE and India, with the same small pool of officials. In one ride, all 36 horses “completed” and came from a single stable.
Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, underlined the importance of authentic qualifying results.
“Having robust qualification standards for any elite sporting discipline is a fundamental requirement to help ensure the equine athletes have the ability to compete at the required level,” he said. “Any failure in this system would place the welfare of the equine athletes in jeopardy.”
Belgium team coach Pierre Arnould was sacked from the FEI endurance committee after giving media interviews in October 2013 about welfare issues in Middle East endurance.
He commented: “Today, the reality, now proven and condemned, far exceeds what we knew at the time.
“These false races show a complete disrespect by the UAE for their horses, for the other competitors, for the FEI and for the other countries affiliated to the same international federation.
“Endurance in the UAE is nothing but an industry of death and cheating.
“The recent decision of the FEI to cancel the last international rides in the UAE proves that awareness seems finally to have been triggered.
“This has much to do with the fact that the FEI is part of the International Olympic Committee, to which it must give justification, and also starting with the end of the FEI presidency of Princess Haya who is the wife of Sheikh Mohammed, and with the retirement of some managers.”
Last weekend, the American Endurance Ride Conference unanimously resolved to ask the FEI to remove the 2016 world championships from Dubai, even before learning of the latest scandal.
AERC president Michael Campbell said: “This dishonesty is destructive to the sport, unfair to the riders and dangerous to the horses.”
Even if some of the rides are have occurred, the extent of the duplication of results will present the FEI with a major challenge deciding how to deal with the UAE federation, plus all riders, owners and officials listed as participating.
H&H was unable to contact the UAE for comment.
In other news, SAS stables, owners of Splitters Creek Bundy (pictured top), finally responded to an enquiry put to them five weeks ago by H&H about whether they would conduct an autopsy on their horse who broke two forelegs in a race of January 31.
On March 10 they wrote back “no comment.” Bundy’s image caused outrage around the world, which is widely believed to have led to more robust action from the FEI.