The Mongol Derby — billed the world’s toughest horse race — gets underway today (Wednesday 6 August).

With 48 riders from 15 countries the field for this year’s Mongol Derby is the biggest yet.

The riders arrived last Sunday (3 August) for three days of pre-race training ahead of the race which started at 7am today (6 August).

Among the Brits taking part are professional polo player, Jamie Peel, former jump jockey Chris Maude and five riders from the Household Cavalry.

They will be competing against an Icelandic stunt rider, a Swedish martial arts expert and a German surfer among others.

Chris Maude, 45, rode in eight Grand Nationals before stopping riding 10 years ago to take up a new career as a jockeys’ valet. He is doing the race to raise money for the Injured Jockeys Fund.

“Why am I doing the Mongol Derby? Because I’m having a mid-life crisis,” he admitted.

Chris is riding with Jamie Peel, 32, whose father, Nigel is master and huntsman of the North Cotswold.

“Without a doubt the race is the biggest challenge of my riding career,” said Jamie. “But August is a quiet month for me, so I thought I’d go and punish myself in Mongolia.”

He is raising money for the James Wentworth Stanley Memorial Fund.

Riders competing in the Mongol DerbyThe race, which recreates Genghis Khan’s ancient postal system is a gruelling 1,000km across the Mongolian steppe (pictured right).

Riders change their semi-wild horses at each of the 25 horse stations manned by local herders.

Last year’s winner was Lucinda Green’s niece, Lara Prior-Palmer.

She was both the first woman and at 19 when she competed, the youngest in the race’s five-year history.

In this year’s race the youngest rider is 20 year-old Luke Berry from the UK and the oldest is Barbara Smith, 60 from the USA.

There are 12 riders from the UK in total taking part: Jamie Peel, Chris Maude, Vikki Wojcik, Rob Skinner, Luke Berry, Wendy Chung, James Griffiths, Simon Lukas, Andrew Mobey, Matthew Pearce, Catherine Stott and Claudia Vincente.

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