An Australian and his British workmate have won the 2018 Mongol Derby, the world’s longest and toughest horse race.
Wangaratta-based Adrian Corboy was crowned the joint winner after crossing the finish line of the 1000-kilometre trek across Mongolia with teammate Annabel Neasham.
Both work for trainer Ciaron Maher in Melbourne.
The event recreates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan in 1224, using hardy and semi-wild native horses.
The riders, adventurers from around the world, cover up to 160 kilometres a day between dawn and dusk, navigating independently and changing horses at 40 km intervals.
The horse stations are manned by nomadic herding families as they traditionally were.
Each horse is inspected by vets at the check points – if it is dehydrated or its heart rate is too high for too long, the rider is penalised and has to wait two hours before they can ride again.
This year the race featured 43 riders from 12 countries, 18 men and 26 women.
UK-based organisers The Adventurists noted that three of them had attempted the race before, while the other 41 Mongol Derby virgins were “our usual wonderful mix of professional riders and happy horsemen”, including “accountants (not so handy), nurses and vets (much handier) as well as a translator (but not in Mongolian), a fishing captain (useful in a landlocked country), and someone who works pack camels”.
In the video below, Australian Henry Bell demonstrates how to harness the speed of a bolting horse.
“In Mongolia, bolting isn’t a vice, it’s a good thing – they quicker they run, the longer they live!” Adventurists HQ said.
The winning pair from Australia received no vet penalties at all throughout the race.
They completed the race in six days and faced typical Mongolian weather – monsoon rain, fog, boiling hot sun, cold one minute, hot the next – as well as a flooded steppe with lots of rivers to cross.
On finishing the Mongol Derby, Neasham said: “People say when they finish, they could easily do another 1000km, well … I think I’m good with this.”
Corboy had been a late replacement for thoroughbred trainer Ciaron Maher, who told racing.com the win was an unbelievable effort.
Maher spoke to Corboy soon after the race finished, saying the Wangaratta trainer had been sore going into the last day, but remained determined.
“He said ‘I’m not going over there to take photos’, he was going over there to win,” Maher said.
“They’re both very tired, but they won it convincingly. It’s a great test of human strength and horsemanship and everything else rolled into one so they’re absolutely ecstatic.”
Adrian Corboy is the fourth Australian to win the event, which holds the Guinness World Record for the World’s Longest Horse Race.