After eight days riding, 40-year-old Sam Jones, a mining operator from Australia, has won the 6th Mongol Derby, the world’s longest and toughest horse race in emphatic style.
Jones was clearly the fastest rider on the course but couldn’t break away from the other leaders until late yesterday. She was delayed for two hours then hit with a one hour time penalty after losing her Spot tracker but even that didn’t dent her impressive progress. She crossed the line 90 minutes ahead of her nearest rivals.
When asked how she felt crossing the finish line she replied with “Pretty awesome… I feel I could do another 1000km,” showing her enthusiasm and passion for riding.
Summing up her Mongol Derby experience the new champion said, “I compare it to the equine equivalent of climbing Everest, it’s a challenge, it’s an adventure, it’s an international race and it’s all based around horses. I live and breathe horses. I’ve ridden them since before I could walk and I’ve never stopped. I’m 40 years old and I’m never going to stop. I intend to come back and run the Derby every 10 years until I can’t any longer.”
Following behind Sam were three British gentleman Chris Maude, 45, a retired British jump jockey who has ridden in eight Grand Nationals and won the Becher Cup twice, Jamie Peel, 32, an equestrian professional and an English polo player and Robert Skinner, 52 Royal marine Colour sergeant who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Maude said, “None of us realised how tough it was going to be … it was tough physically and mentally. It was dangerous and you really go through every emotion. There were good times and bad times.”
Peel said, “It was an amazing challenge but going over the line was a massive relief. It’s emotionally draining. We all had slow horses today and we didn’t know what was going on behind and we were concerned we were going to get caught.”
Peel has been battling a virus the last couple of days and this morning he suffered a fall when his horse tripped and rolled onto him, trapping his legs. Luckily Maude and Skinner were there to assist him and catch his horse before it ran off so he didn’t suffer a penalty.
So far 10 riders from the 48 that started the race have withdrawn, mostly as a result of injuries sustained by riders thrown off their semi wild horses. Others have been hit with dehydration and illness.
Over 20 riders are still riding out in the steppe and are expected to finish over the next couple of days. The Mongol Derby is once again living up to its billing as the world’s longest and toughest horse race.