ALULA: Stars from the sport of endurance have landed in Saudi Arabia in preparation for the Fursan Cup 2022 on Jan. 29.
More than 200 riders from more than 30 countries will contest the 120 km ride, which will be staged in the historic AlUla region on Saturday, Jan. 29.
Among those competing in the across-the-desert landscape is Carmine Villani, the World No.1 in the FEI rankings in 2020.
Villani, who represents Great Britain, said: “AlUla for me is really like riding in the Grand Canyon — one of the most beautiful places in the world with sand and cliffs. It’s magical.”
The event is a thorough test of skill and stamina for riders and horses alike. With four loops, the ride takes eight hours on average to complete.
Villani added: “It’s a technical course — because of the very deep sand. That’s the challenge of course and you have to manage that. It’s really an important thing.”
Costanza Laliscia, the 2016 and 2019 winner of the FEI Young Riders World Endurance Ranking, is another top rider looking forward to lining up in the Fursan Endurance Cup, the third staging of which carries a huge prize of $4.2m (SR15 million).
“I can’t wait to go to Saudi Arabia,” the Italian said. “I’ve never been yet but imagine wonderful landscapes and a very high-level race. From the photos, I see it as a unique landscape that will surely leave me great memories and very intense emotions. It is a desert different from all the others I have known.”
Laliscia, whose father Gianluca is a former endurance champion, believes that the ride in AlUla will provide further impetus for the sport in the region and beyond.
“I know the history of horses in Saudi Arabia,” she said. “I am sure that with this race, and the excellent organization, you can make an important contribution to the growth of sport and especially of endurance in this country with great potential. This is a moment of growth.”
The growing stature and global nature of the Fursan Endurance Cup is underlined by the involvement of competitors such as Pedro Pablo Gomez Martinez. The rider, trainer and breeder has undertaken an extensive journey of approaching 24 hours from his stables in Chile to be in AlUla for the event.
Pedro Pablo Gomez said: “AlUla will be a perfect place for endurance and Saudi will hopefully grow in the sport eventually as it has all the needed potential and real Arabian horses come from there. I am very excited for this trip as I will learn even more. I’m truly honored for this to part of this event, and I want to thank all the authorities of Saudi Arabia making this happen in AlUla — and its spectacular and breathtaking landscapes — with the support of endurance experts to organize it.”
The Fursan Cup is organized in cooperation with the Royal Commission for AlUla and Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation. The event will be one of the main attractions of the Winter at Tantora Festival, which runs from Dec. 21 to Feb. 12.
Tantora is one of four main festivals being introduced in 2022 under the AlUla Moments banner. The festival includes another flagship equestrian event, AlUla Desert Polo, Feb. 11-12, as well as a series of music events at Maraya.
Speaking on behalf of the Royal Commission for AlUla, Phillip Jones, chief destination management and marketing officer, said: “AlUla’s equestrian events are key pillars of what is a longer-term strategy to share with the world the monumental beauty of AlUla as a place that is unique in the Arabian Peninsula and perfect for exploring on horseback. The RCU vision includes significant infrastructure and facilities for the elite end of the sport as well as more riding trails and itineraries for visitors to immerse themselves in the majesty of the cultural landscape.”
“The experience of horseback riding among the desert splendour and rock formations creates unforgettable memories. Our third staging of The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup will be no different for our all riders.”