Horse racing-Prize money for Endurance Cup boosted to $2.6 mln

DUBAI, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Dubai's government-owned developer Meydan Group has boosted the prize money for Saturday's Endurance Cup to almost $2.6 million and announced a series of European races to promote endurance riding, it said on Thursday. "We feel that endurance has been left out so the prize money was enhanced to benchmark with other sports," said Saeed Humaid al-Tayer, chairman of the group that runs Dubai's opulent racecourse. Each foreign rider, except Gulf Arab nationals, who completes the challenging 160km (99 mile) Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Endurance Cup will receive 100,000 dirhams ($27,226). About 190 riders are expected to participate. "For us the welfare of the horses is very important and we want to achieve the highest completion possible," Tayer told a news conference at the Meydan racecourse. The new series of endurance races will be held in Britain, France, Italy and Spain in 2015 and culminate in Dubai next year to help develop the sport, he added. Long distance riding, where horses complete the course in loops with periodic veterinary checks, has been thriving in the Middle East and especially in the United Arab Emirates. Its image has been tarnished, however, by a string of doping cases and concerns over horse injuries and fatalities in recent years. The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) implemented more stringent rules for endurance races in August. A United Arab Emirates government advisory council in June passed a draft law against horse doping in all equestrian disciplines in an effort to clean up a sport that has suffered scandals in flat and endurance races. (Reporting by Martin Dokoupil; Editing by Toby Davis)