Lindsay Graham rode 10-year-old gelding Monk to a 32nd-place finish in the annual 100-mile President’s Cup Endurance Ride on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Graham, a veterinarian at Napa Valley Veterinary Hospital, said only 46 of 140 starters finished the prestigious event.
The 2000 Vintage High School graduate went into the six-loop race planning to ride at a competitive but comfortable pace.
She wanted to make sure Monk, owned by Chris Martin of Penn Valley, would come home healthy and be ready for their bigger goal — a successful tryout next month in Texas for the biannual World Endurance Championship that will be held in England in August.
Graham and Monk finished in 8 hours, 53 minutes.
The only other American invited to the race, four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Doug Swingley of Montana, finished 38th.
“The race went really well,” Graham said. “The day went as I had hoped for, to start off in the back and keep a steady but slowly increasing pace throughout the day.
“All other horses in front of me were from the Middle East. The completion rate was so poor because those individuals (who had to drop out) were going out for the win and in a race like that, you’d better be prepared to be eliminated due to either lameness or metabolic reasons.”
Even the Crown Prince of Dubai, Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, who won the Cup in 2008, had to drop out after his horse went lame during the third stage.
Graham said she and Monk averaged 18 kilometers per hour.
“Our last loop was the fastest at 19.4 kph, which I had hoped to accomplish as this proved that I had a lot of horse left at the end of the race,” she said.
Graham arrived early in the morning of Feb. 9, raced two days later, and had to fly back only 36 hours after the event. That left her with about half a day to see the sights in Abu Dhabi, which is on an island along the Persian Gulf coast and has nearly 900,000 residents.
“The city was very modern, new buildings everywhere, and was the cleanest place I’ve ever been to. I don’t think I saw trash anywhere,” Graham said.
“The people were very generous and accommodating. It was a great experience that I will never forget.”
Shaikh Hazza Bin Sultan Al Nahyan won the race, held at the Emirates International Endurance Village just outside the city. Riding 12-year-old Glenmorgan, he finished in 6 hours, 21 minutes and 35 seconds and denied another rider his fourth straight President’s Cup win.
Shaikh Hazza started in the 46th position but was in the top 10 for good after just three loops. He won by more than a minute, five years after his younger brother won.
“It was a very tough ride,” Shaikh Hazza told Gulf News. “The competition was of a very high level with riders from all over the world. I decided on a strategy which would help keep my horse in good condition and only increased the pace in the final two stages.”