At 12:50pm Sam Jones of Australia has won the 6th Mongol Derby in emphatic style. She was the fastest rider on the course, but couldn’t break away from the other leaders until late yesterday. Even when she faced a two hour delay and a one hour penalty after losing her tracker her progress was barely checked.
The 40 year old mining operator chose to ride alone for most of the race. She took the gamble of camping out past HS26 yesterday evening, with only 45 minutes riding time left in the day; despite the knowledge that bad weather was forecast and a lost horse would certainly cost her the race. It was bold decisions that earned her victory as much as speedy riding and good navigation skills.
She rode much of today uncertain how far behind her nearest competitors were, but needed to balance this with the knowledge that if she pushed too hard she would meet the same fate as Devan Horne in 2013 and Barry Armitage in 2012 who were both first over the line but lost out to veterinary penalties.
Sam is the 6th derby winner, only the second female champion and the first from Australia
I spoke to Sam moments after her horse passed its vet check:
How do you feel?
Pretty awesome… I feel I could do another 1000. You should organise a 2000 km race next year.
How did you find the Derby?
I loved every minute of it, if it was easy it wouldn’t have been as good. There were definitely some tough times but i found it… invigorating is probably the word. there were hard bits but that’s the whole point, that’s why you do something like this, to challenge yourself.
How were the horses?
The toughness of them is phenomenal. I’ve ridden at speeds during this race over ground I’d hesitate to walk across over before this. Sometime I wasn’t always given a choice, sometimes they just bolt out of the station & it’d take you 5 k to just get in control.
Did you get lost or sick much?
I got lost several times, I was quite good at that but I always found my way back. I never got really sick, there were times I thought i might vomit, & there were times I thought i might poop my pants, but that’s what you get when you do something as extreme as this, but I never got really sick. I had my share of aches and pains but my body got better and better as i went along & I adapted and yeah, I could happily keep riding. Give me another horse and I’ll go.
How did you feel when you lost your tracker?
I realised half an hour before the station I had about 2 hours of riding time left in the day and I had every intention of riding on. I loved the experience (the previous night) of camping out with the Mongolian family & to realise the tracker had fallen out of its holder & the doubt about whether I would get it back in time to ride on in the morning it was awful. I’m a firm believer in luck when you get good luck you run with it and when you get bad luck, you gotta roll with the punches. So, I got to stay at that station. No worries, I got a couple of extra hours downtime and rest. that’s the way it goes.
How did you motivate yourself during the race?
I didn’t really have any real need for motivation. You’re here riding on the derby & it’s a 1000km horse race. To me that’s enough, I’ve never really lacked the tenacity I guess. I am very competitive and driven & it’s important for me to be up at the front. I didn’t have to come in first, but i wanted to be up in the front, I started off with the group, I rode the first leg with them, but I was in and out of the horse stations before anyone else & I just kept going.
Did you have a strategy to win?
Not really , when I approached the race it was just to enjoy the experience to the full, to just live it all and do it all to the full. I did always say if I had a chance of winning then I would absolutely go for it. I found myself up the front early on so when it came to the stage when I knew I had a chance I just went for it.
My advantage was that I was faster through the stations. Also I was completely fine heading off on my own. other people wanted to ride with others but I’m fine on my own, I’m happy to head off into the middle of nowhere with my horse & I think that’s what probably got me over the line first.
At what point did you know you’d won?
I knew leaving HS27 I was a long way in front. which was just as well because the horse I chose at 27 was a very steady beasty, but that was fine i took it very steady. I didn’t count my chickens until i passed the vet. But he passed his signs are good he’s a healthy happy pony and here I am, this years winner.
How would you sum up the Mongol Derby?
I compare it to the equine equivalent of climbing everest, its a challenge, its an adventure, it’s an international race and it’s all based around horses & I live horses. I live & breathe horses. I’ve ridden them since before I could walk & I’ve never stopped, I’m 40 years old & I’m never going to stop. I intend to come back & run the derby every 10 years until I cant any longer.