We’ve had fake horse IDs, faked races and faked results in UAE endurance, so why not fake riders too?
The FEI pledges again and again to clamp down on rule-breakers, but NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE because certain riders will always be above the rules.
Dubai’s ruling Maktoum family have a long-time summer endurance base in East Anglia, UK, from which they travel to FEI rides across Europe – mostly the rides they sponsor through the Meydan corporation. These include an intensive program at Euston Park, which infamously hosted the Marmoog “ringer” incident at the 2012 FEI world championships.
Maktoum patronage of Euston ceased in 2013 around the time Sheikh Mohammed was getting a lot of negative press in Britain over the Godolphin racing steroids scandal. Euston returned under new management in 2016, the UAE’s apparent turning of a new leaf. In fact, Euston is hosting the European championships next year.
At the August 5th fixture, only 10 riders – nine UAE, one Spanish, no Brits – were on the official 160km CEI start-list, in which defending WEG champion Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum was trying out his prospective Tryon ride, Castlebar Corsair.
With so few starters you’d think the ground jury would be able to keep track, but it was spectators that noticed an 11th, unlisted contender, wearing bib #34. According to the original entry list, #34 should have been 24-year-old Saeed Hamoud Saeed al Khayari riding Valkiry la Coudrelle, but al Khayari was now riding another horse in the 80km CEI, starting an hour or so later.
Rider 34 was a gentleman whose age, with all due respect, clearly does not begin with a 2. His horse was recognised by locals as HS Jamal, owned and usually ridden by GB’s Lauren Mills; she and partner Philip Hirst have stables not far away.
According to witnesses, #34 fell off early on, and his horse had to be caught. For copyright reasons we can’t reproduce images of #34 directly on this page but on this link he’s the chap further from the camera (no guarantees the images will remain indefinitely, of course, though screen shots are with the FEI).
After hearing about onlookers’ suspicions, I put them to the FEI, who consulted Euston. FEI reported back that bib #34 was re-allocated to HS Jamal, a very late entry, forgetting to notify the scorers. The “real” rider was then identified to me as Saeed Khalil Mansour al Mansoori, 28, whose eligibility check was overlooked because he was also a very late entry.
I was told the timekeepers realised al Mansoori was neither qualified, nor FEI registered 10 minutes after the 160km start, so the ground jury ordered him stopped. No harm done; the horse had only gone 700 yards, it was all dealt with on the day, nothing to see here. Curiously, though, official FEI results did not amend to show Jamal’s brief participation till well after I’d raised the matter. We can see that somebody of the same name was FEI registered in 2014 and 2015, but had never actually competed.
I was curious why no one in authority asked al Mansoori why he’d troubled to travel thousands of miles for a FEI 160km race on a borrowed horse with zero experience and zero credentials. First, that’s not very horse-friendly – just as well he did fall off early on/get intercepted (depending which version you prefer.) Secondly, in the UK and probably elsewhere, an organiser’s insurance cover could be voided if a rider involved in any claim shouldn’t have been there.
But then again, what would you learn from questioning al Mansoori? Because rider #34 wasn’t him, either. He bears a remarkable resemblance to Hamdan’s regular bodyguard Saeed Hilal bin Taraf. How odd no one familiar with the Crown Prince’s entourage saw the likeness. Here is Saeed Hilal, openly identified as Hamdan’s bodyguard on Facebook, with his boss on Instagram, and in this YouTube video celebrating their friendship.
Back in August, the FEI told me Euston had assured them errors like those surrounding #34 would not occur again. Yet incredibly it is now admitted a second horse had a “ghost” rider that day.
Pictures of a yellow-shirted man with no number bib or GPS tracker later came to my attention, riding with the UAE 160km horses. It says a lot that witnesses are still anxious about reporting concerns to officials, and feel more secure alerting the media instead.
Yellowshirt can be spotted at three well-spread locations within this picture sequence, waving at the camera in one shot.
His grey horse bore #103 on his quarters – clearly identifiable as Crystal Magic Star, who is owned by Philip Hirst. Ms Mills and Mr Hirst have not responded to questions why they’d helped enable this whopping great rule-breach. This included a request for comment forwarded to them on my behalf by Endurance GB. EGB are also rather quiet on the matter – they receive significant funding from the Maktoums/Meydan, after all.
No input from the UAE federation, naturally, or from Mohammed Essa, who among other things looks after Maktoums’ endurance interests in the UK and whom Euston undertook to consult for me.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t too hard to spot Yellowshirt as another member of the “fazourage,” which is how Hamdan’s buddies often style themselves (Hamdan’s nickname is Fazza, which means poet in Arabic.) Thanks to plastering themselves all over social media, we can see he is a dead ringer for HE Nasser al Neyadi. Hamdan didn’t seem to mind being photographed with this second ineligible rider in this YouTube diary of the August 5th ride (at 1 minute 54 secs).
The only Nasser al Neyadi known to the FEI hasn’t “competed” since 2012. Whether this historic ride record is for the same fellow or not, it is notable for comprising only 120km and 160km starts – not even possible under FEI rules.
I asked the FEI about #103 early in October. Various reasons were given for the delayed response – strange, since I was eventually told he was also dealt with on the day by the ground jury.
On November 10th, I was offered this: that #103 was originally down to be ridden in the FEI 80km by GB’s Philippa Jupp. When the horse arrived late to the 80km start, it was realised the rider was a man. Yellowshirt was apprehended in the 80km’s first loop and his bib and transponder removed. He then asked to ride a “training loop” and a member of the ground jury “inadvertently” agreed. The ground jury later learned he had joined the 160km horses, so apprehended him.
I followed up asking various parties to confirm or deny that Yellowshirt is Mr al Neyadi. It was not exactly difficult to compare the photos provided, as he is is clearly well known in Dubai – president of the Emirates Aerosports Federaton for a start. Yet this time around, no one wanted to give me a name, not even a misleading one.
FEI did want me to know, though, HS Jamal and Crystal Magic Star were vetted and none the worse for their adventures, so I guess that’s all hunky-dory, then and excuses all other shenanigens.
FEI rules prohibit competitors allowing ineligible persons to join them on the field of play. Why were no warning cards handed out? There are lots of other questions, of course, but why wear ourselves out wondering which is the greater: the number of people in on the ruse, or the number of rules broken in a single day? Nothing will be done, let’s face it.
I am now hearing that ineligible riders have tagged along, unchallenged, with the UAE contingent at other FEI rides for yonks and that horses have been openly solicited from UK riders for these jolly japes.
Why would the fazourage bother with this pointless charade? Because they can. I guess its also amusing to watch your lackeys tie themselves up in knots when you’re finally found out. What a great big crock of s***.