August 15, 2018

Category: Mongol Derby

There we have it – the team of Annabel Neasham & Adrian Corboy have gone and done it: they’re joint winners of the tenth Mongol Derby.  Adrian Corboy, leaving Australia for the first time in his life, had three weeks to lose nine kilos and do some packing when he stepped in for Ciaron Maher at the last minute.  Neither he nor Annabel are endurance riders; Adrian backs and breaks racehorses, while Annabel is a CCI* level eventer from the UK who now works for Ciaron Maher racing in Australia.  And yet they beat a field of experienced riders which included DH – a very experienced endurance rider from the USA who was here to compete in her third derby.  How did they do it?

When the gun went, DH shot to the front as expected.  As in previous years she raced hard, choosing horses that looked fast but also looked as if they might have fire in their bellies.  AC and AN took a different approach.  They had a strategy from the start, Adrian said, and despite being under a lot of pressure, first to catch DH and then after DH was awarded the pivotal vet penalty, to maintain their lead.  As ever, horse selection was key, as Annabel pointed out at the finish line:

“I think horse selection was a big thing – we got good at picking horses.  You’ve got to pick a horse with a bit of length to it, a deep girth and a good shoulder that shows a few ribs.  A lot of people said before we left that we should skip the racing ponies.  They’re the skinny ones.  We had a go with a couple of those but they’re on the steal all the time and they burn too much petrol early on.  So it was about picking the herder’s own horse that they use to go and check the herd because they’re fit.”

The one thing that clinched them their victory?

“I think reading our horses.  The horses are what we do, day in day out anyway.  You’ve got to look after the horse and they’ll look after you. Reading the horses and essentially learning to judge pace you just have to go slowly the whole way – medium tempo is better than going quick and burning out.  We went a steady canter the whole way and if the horses told us they needed a breather we gave them one.  We got them in the water whenever we had the chance.  From 5km out we trotted and from 1.5km out we’d walk.  If it was hot we’d take the saddles off just to get the heat out of them.”

Listening to Annabel, you could almost forget they were racing across the Mongolian steppe, but the turning point of their race for Adrian couldn’t have happened anywhere else.

“We were stuck, properly stuck, in a bog.  We were about ready to hit the help button when a young herder came out of the fog and led us through a swollen river; it wasn’t actually the race course but he led us the right way.  That was the point we won the race.”

The other riders who finished today were DH, EAL, CH, AL & HW.  More on them tomorrow, but today belongs to the winners.

HQ over and out

Finishers’ Leaderboard

1330 – AC & AN, joint winners of the Mongol Derby 2018

1535 – DH, third

1556 – EAL, fourth

CH/AL fifth

HW seventh

Rest of the field

Urtuu 28 – the Archibells, MT, JP & VA

In between 26 & 27 – JM (no doubt hurrying for his taxi at the finish line.  Booked for 1400)

Urtuu 26 – KR, EK, CR

In between 24 & 25 – KO, TTM, P

Urtuu 24 – MG, KOL, NMS, JS, WG

Urtuu 23  – CON, SN, CF, TB, MGR, GR, JL, CF, MM, DHE, PK

Retired: CB, CS, FA, KG, MB, MS, RB, RH, SA