On Day 6 it was all about who would be ahead after riders sat out any time penalties they’ve incurred. They all had to be served at Horse Station 19 and it was a tense time at the top of the leaderboard.
South Africans Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson were carrying larger time penalties than the chasing pack of four that have been threatening to close their marginal lead and nick the top spot.
Sticking together as a team - a decision that could cost them a chance of victory
The four chasers, all definitely in contention to win the world’s longest horse race at the end of racing yesterday, are the two professional Irish Jockeys Richard Killoran and Dony Fahy, US rider Julie Youngblood and British rider Charlotte Treleaven.
Charlotte was not carrying any penalties, the two irish jockeys would have to sit out a 30 minute penalty for riding past the 9pm deadline, but Julie Youngblood had received a veterinary penalty which comes with a two hour racing hold.
As the race gets close to the finish at Horse Station 25 two hours is a massive chunk of time. To give themselves the strongest chance of catching the leaders and winning the race Julie’s riding mates would have to leave her behind to keep on the pace.
But amazingly they all chose to stay with her. After riding 760km together across the Mongolian steppe and facing seriously gruelling conditions together and living out on the steppe, they elected to stay together, seriously damaging their chances of winning to stick their their riding mate. Her penalty was issued on Day 4 for a lame horse, though thankfully the vets have since reported that the horse made a full recovery.
So the South Africans Barry and Joe ended Day 6 officially in the lead, by almost three hours riding time and around 20 kilometres.
Race still not won - will tactics change to avoid last minute mistakes?
While the leading pair have their noses firmly out in front now, there are still six legs of 40km to go, and one time penalty or mistake such as temporarily losing a horse could cost them their lead.
Will they change tactics and ride at a slower pace and with extra caution to protect their lead or will they go for the win and aim to increase their lead?
It’s going down to a tense finish for the two riders that took part in 2011 but were unhappy not to finish as victors and came back for a second crack in 2012 with their sights set firmly on first place and nothing else. For them, the silver medal would be a bitter disappointment.
Brit thrown from horse, loses it, chases it 10km, remounts, carries on
British rider Ben de Rivaz submitted a request for help today when he was thrown from his horse.
After ejecting its cargo the horse then decided it would turn back home and started off towards horse station 14 leaving Ben stranded in a very remote spot.
Most people would have admitted defeat. In fact everyone would have admitted defeat, but Ben is an Ironman competitor and clearly made of stern stuff. Concrete box kind of stern.
Wearing all his riding gear and carrying his water he set off after the horse on foot. He ran the horse down for a massive 10 kilometres or so before finding a local herder, who helped him catch the horse.
While the race team were preparing to search for the horse, penalise Ben and look at replacement saddles and kit, he cancelled his call for help. He carried out some running repairs to his saddle bags with the help of the local herder, remounted and finished the leg. Bravo Mr. de Rivaz we say, an excellent example to anyone contemplating giving up before every single solution or alternative option has been exhaustively pursued...
Full report on Day 7’s action and an updated leaderboard coming in the next few hours.
The first rider is expected to cross the finish line on Friday lunchtime, Mongolian time.