Two more riders have retired from the race, leaving 30 still going from the 34 that set off on Friday morning to take on the world’s longest horse race.
Almost half the remaining field still in with realistic chance of winning the race. Six riders made it to horse station 10 clocking up a total of 400km in three days. But right on their heels just one horse station 40km behind there are 7 riders desperate to get back in contention.
One mistake by a leader, combined with a flyer from someone in the chasing pack, and the leaderboard (below) could shift dramatically.
The weather shifted from the cool and wet conditions of the first 48 hours that suited the horses and allowed a seriously quick pace. The sun came out strong for the first time, the pace slowed and the race got sweaty and even more hard-going.
Nobody could break free out of the leading pack of six riders. The first delay caused by treatment required for a horse, a painfully slow horse, and the weight advantages of the smaller riders were among the factors that made day 3 very lively indeed at the pointy end of the pack.
The inevitable unpredictability of a race on this scale on semi-wild horses produced a day full of temporary victories, massive set backs and the realisation that rider weight really could have a big impact on the outcome of the race. The hunt for the lead goes on.
The course is stunning according to riders and crew, all reports commenting on the massive vistas and vastness of the Mongolian wilderness they’re racing across. Richard Dunwoody, official race photo-journalist, filed shots from the steppe of Day 2 & 3 that backed up the claims.
Richard, a former champion jockey and now adventurer and photographer, took part in the first leg of the first Mongol Derby and reported that “it all kicked off today.” Here’s a first-hand expert’s view of the race from the steppe:
Race commentary from Richard Dunwoody
“It’s all kicked off today. Richard Killoran and Dony Fahy were riding well and fast, but then Dony had a very, very slow horse coming away from 8 and it was desperate for him.
"It was very slow indeed compared to some of the other horses, and they came in to horse station 9 about two hours after South African riders Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson. I think they were pretty disappointed. They headed very quickly out of Horse Station 9 once they had served their 30 minute penalty which they picked up for riding late last night [outside the permitted riding hours, they were only 15 minutes late but the race rules are being strictly enforced].
"Charlotte Treleaven and Julie Youngblood [also in the leading pack of six] are doing a great job and apparently Julie started out with the Irish jockeys at 8 but they left them behind in the end as they had very good horses. They were very happy with their progress today.
"The guys who have been leading a fair bit of today Barry and Joe are going well, they’re in good spirit. The whole leading group seem to be navigating particularly well between the horse stations.
Sleep - a massive factor when you’re riding 1000km
"There were two people camped out last night, Michaela Gradinger found an English speaker in a local soum and came in the next morning to the horse station well rested and looking fantastic.
"Whereas poor Sam Wyborn had a rough night I think. He camped out last night and came in about an hour after Michaela looking very tired after a hard night.
"It’s important not to lose your horse out there like Sonja did earlier on in the race and he didn’t get a lot of sleep. So I think he’s going to have a hard old day today and may struggle to get back in touch with the leaders.
"He also made a tactical decision yesterday that may have gone against him in hindsight. He was coming along nicely with the Irish jockeys Richard and Dony and when faced with a navigational decision the Irish went one way and Sam headed the other way up into the hills. It appears to have been the wrong call, but hopefully he’ll bounce and get himself back in contention.
"All in all it’s very exciting stuff now, the race is really taking off, there’s a lot going on out there.
The course itself is beautiful, absolutely stunning. It was amazing down at Horse Station 7 and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the Mongolian countryside. It’s been amazing for the race crew, nevermind the riders.
"In terms of the favourite to win after 3 days, you’ve got to look at the South Africans Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson because of their experience [they took part in the Mongol Derby last year but weren’t happy with their result] but you really never know what could happen."
Major Incidents of the Day
Delay for leading pair
South African riders Joe Dawson were delayed at horse station 10, required by the vet to remain at the station while Joe's horse received treatment after arriving with synchronous diaphragmatic flutter also know as ‘the thumps’. It’s a calcium deficiency often caused by extra sweating and dehydration that is treatable with fluids.
It’s not uncommon in endurance races in hot conditions and is one of the main conditions vets will look out for in this kind of race. The horse was treated immediately and recovered well.
In this sitation the race rules dictate that the rider has to wait while the horse receives treatment until it has recovered and its condition reported as satisfactory by the vet.
His team mate Barry could have rode on as there were no issues with his horse but he decided to wait and they lost their lead. The other four riders in the chasing pack then caught up and all six finished the day at horse station 10. That is despite all four having to serve a 30 minute penalty for arriving late on Day 1.
Two more riders out of the race
Erin Shanson incurred a knee injury on Day 1 and rode on, but today the pain had become unmanageable and she called for assistance. She has been taken to the clinic in Ulaanbaatar and though she’s on crutches with a swollen knee, is said to be recovering well. Erin is of course bitterly disappointed to be out of the race. Alya Obaid has retired, choosing not to carry on despite receiving praise for her excellent riding ability.
The first pub stop Towards the rear of the field, Erik Cooper, Aimee Costello and George Azarius decided that conditions were so hot it called for a cooling beer. They enjoyed a brief pit stop in a soum along the way for a local ale before carrying on and are enjoying their race and the lifestyle on the steppe.
Leaderboard - Positions at the end of Day 3
Horse station 10:
Barry Armitage, 45, South Africa
Joe Dawson, 35, South Africa
Dony Fahy, 25, Ireland
Richard Killoran, 25, Ireland
Julie Youngblood, 24, USA
Charlotte Treleaven, 24, UK
Horse station 9:
Michaela Gradinger, 39, Austria
Christoffer Adriansson, 26, Sweden
Mathias Gardlund, 42, Sweden
Sam Wyborn, 25, New Zealand
Will Grant, 31, USA
Nicole Walter, 41, Germany
Wendy Chambers, 45, Australia
Horse station 8:
Ben de Rivaz, 28, UK
Simon Pearce, 51, South Africa
Heather Mostert, 30(ish), South Africa
Craig Springbait, 51, South Africa
Campbell Costello, 24, Australia
Between horse stations 7 & 8:
Staying with a local family:
Lucy Yorke, 25, UK
Jess Russell, 24, UK
Eveline Gawne, 46, UK
Sonja Timani, 39, Austria
Horse Station 7:
Jess Pelaez, 29, USA
Erik Cooper, 27, USA
George Azarius, 26, Australia
Aimee Costello, 29, UK
Camping 10km before horse station 7:
Ronald van der Velder, 51, Netherlands
Anne Schutman, 29, Germany
Katherine Friedland, 46, Canada
Ivo Marlo, Germany
Retired from the race:
Alya Obaid, UAE
Erin Shanson, 27, USA
Paul de Rivaz, UK
Linda Sandvik, Norway