The Mongol Derby 2016 is underway. Who has done well in pre-race training? Everyone apparently:
Some have taken to the steppe like they were born local, while others are overwhelmed with the experience. It's a foolish game to make Derby winner predictions, but we're going to make them anyway. Here's our pick of the field:
Will Comiskey - Team Dingo
A Queensland native, he grew up on a cattle station and now runs cattle himself. He claims he's doing the derby to give himself "a physical and mental challenge," and has proved ready for the challenge so far. He's proved to be very good at coping in the heat of the startline camp where some of the other riders are suffering sunstroke after the two training days.
"Will is calm and chilled around the horses and they go really well for him" reckons Katy. "A quietly competitive chap, everyone likes him but he’s not affiliated to anyone. That gives him a big advantage as he could possibly team up with anyone if he wants to or as circumstances require."
"At the start line, he was asking really intelligent questions about the individual horses in the line up. He really wants to know how to do well - and was interested in taking out some of the lottery elements of it, he’s super laid back." Mr Comiskey is one to watch.
Chase Becker and Mike Becker
Carin Ostergren and Sara Pickthall
He's a helicopter pilot and she's a trainee midwife. The first riders to every briefing and they arrived in Mongolia meticulously well prepared. An classic double act, where one falls short, the other picks up the slack.
At, 20, Chase can claim to be the youngest in the field and is 'a ball of energy' in person while father Mike has got the outdoor experience to draw on. Both are pretty good with the horses.
They are adamant that they are in it together, thick or thin, which is worth a lot on the Derby - if everything goes to plan.
Carin a self proclaimed 'adrenalin junkie' is riding with friend Sara. They make quite a team. Talking to Carin is "like standing in front of the sun" says Katy. "She is the jolliest sweetest, most lighthearted girl."
It remains to be seen if she will use that charm at the Urtuus. The Mongolian herders know their horses strengths better than anyone and a calculating rider will be able to utilise the local knowledge to identify the champion horses out of a line up. Meanwhile, teammate Sara is the stronger horsewoman and seems to be able to charm the more feisty steeds. If the two stick together and combine to work to each others strengths, they'd be a team to beat.
"She’s effortless on the horse," reckons Katy, "quiet, determined and unassuming. In that respect she reminds me of [winner] Byeronie Epstein from last year. No hesitations, her tacking is perfect, her kit's really good, and she never looks tired."
She's a Pediatric Intensive Care nurse from the States, so we imagine she'll be skilled at keeping her head in stressful situations.
She's even holding up in the heat when it's been brutally hot just standing around. One to watch.
Household Cavalry Team
The five from the Household Cavalry are outstanding riders but "all of them doing the whole course together is wishful thinking" predicts Katy. Some are really strong riders, others might find the horses more tempestuous than the Blacks they are used to. The team leader James Harbord and riding instructor Anthony Strange are particularly skilled. Will they be able to stay together? We'll see what the steppe does to the team.
Kevin Darley and Chips Broughton
Kevin Darley, former professional jockey, is naturally a fantastic rider."Individually, I think he could win, but I think he's going to put his ambitions to one side" says Katy. Also riding with him, Chips Broughton who is "tremendously fit" and "tremendously skilled."