RIYADH: AlUla is hosting two world-class equestrian events for the second time in two years.
The first, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022, will be held on Jan. 29.
It is an 120 kilometer endurance competition organized in cooperation with the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation.
Located in northwest Saudi Arabia, AlUla is a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage. Both sporting events are being held as part of the Winter at Tantora festival taking place over the next six weeks.
The Endurance Cup will see more than 200 riders compete in one of the most exciting long-distance horse races in the world. It is the third year that the tournament is being held, and more than SR15 million ($4.2 million) in prize money is on offer.
The course takes an average of eight hours to complete and in that time some of the best riders in the world will travel through a variety of breathtaking landscapes. Both horse and rider need to be in peak condition, as the race is physically and mentally demanding.
Last year, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum from F3 Stables won the competition.
Italia Endurance Stables & Academy has been appointed organizer of the Endurance Cup, under the leadership of general sport director Gianluca Laliscia and event director Brian Colin Dunn.
Dunn has plenty of praise for the historic location of the race.
He said: “The entire technical team is delighted to visit the stunning desert of AlUla, which has such a deep connection with Arabian horse heritage and is very close to our heart. The welcome of the people and the passion and expertise they have for our sport will undoubtedly make for an epic and joyful experience.”
In the second equestrian event of Winter at Tantora, visitors will also be able to experience a major polo tournament staged in the desert, organized in partnership with the Saudi Polo Federation.
Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo will see four teams compete between Feb. 11-12 next year in a specially built arena that lies close to the ancient site of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Those taking part will be a mix of invited patrons and professional players drawn from the global polo community.
Players from the legendary La Dolfina Polo team will lead one team each. La Dolfina, which many consider them to be “the perfect team,” have a 40-goal handicap together and are the only team to win three consecutive Triple Crowns: the Tortugas Open, Hurlingham Open and Argentine Open, in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Recently, the Royal Commission for AlUla and the La Dolfina Polo Team announced the establishment of a long-term partnership to promote the development of the sport in Saudi Arabia.
The deal aims to make the historic city the premier destination for equestrian sport enthusiasts from around the world.
Adolfo Cambiaso, founder of La Dolfina Polo, and someone considered to be the best polo player in history, has become a destination advocate for AlUla.
“We are excited to return to AlUla and play with fellow patrons and players from all over the world,” he said. “Since the first edition of Desert Polo, it’s been great to see the interest in polo grow in the Kingdom, and we look forward to developing the sport in newly explored regions such as AlUla.”
Amr Zedan, chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, said: “We are very excited to welcome back La Dolfina Polo stars and leading polo patrons, this year from the US, France and the UK.
“The Saudi Polo Federation is working closely to support the Royal Commission for AlUla in developing a new equestrian strategy to continue to build on the Arabian horse heritage of the region.
“With daily flights to AlUla, we hope to see new polo enthusiasts grow in the Madinah region and across the Kingdom.”
It will be the third Winter at Tantora festival where local and international visitors can enjoy traditional music, art, heritage, adventure, culture and food.
Besides the two equestrian events, there will also be a haute couture horse fashion event, the Ikmah Fashion Cavalry Show, “where horses meet high fashion.”
AlUla’s equestrian events are key pillars of a long-term strategy to promote AlUla as a international travel destination.
The Royal Commission’s plans include significant infrastructure and facility development, as well as horse-riding trails and itineraries for visitors to immerse themselves in the majesty of the cultural landscape.
Tickets to attend the two Winter at Tantora equestrian events can be purchased starting Dec. 27 through www.experiencealula.com.