WA rider triumphs in world s toughest race
Sam Jones, winner of 1000km Mongol Derby horse race. Picture: Richard Dunwoody

As horse rider Sam Jones headed for the remote Mongolian savanna for the endurance ride of her life, her mentor gave her some words of advice - look out for yourself and hope for good luck.

Kirsten Melis said she knew Jones, 40, had the riding skills to finish the world's longest horse race, but as she became the first Australian to win the Mongol Derby, Melis said Jones also "had lady luck on her side".

Yesterday an exhilarated Jones beat 47 other international competitors in the 1000km endurance race - said to be the toughest course in the world - in which riders race semi-wild horses picked up from remote stations along the route.

Racing conditions included sub-zero temperatures and torrential rain. Time limits on riding forced some competitors to camp or seek shelter with strangers.

Jones crossed the line at 1pm yesterday after leading the charge for several stages.

Fellow WA competitor Brent Albuino crossed the line last night and Narrogin's James Mitchell was among a group of riders who had yet to finish, with days separating the first and last competitors.

Speaking after she finished yesterday, an exhausted Jones described the experience as "fairytale stuff".

"It was the most amazing thing I've ever done in my life," she said.

"I kind of knew it would be and I wasn't disappointed."

Melis, who competed in last year's derby, said she spent months preparing Jones for the many days alone on horses, which could be unpredictable or even drop their riders, forcing them to run for kilometres to catch their horse.

Before the pair farewelled each other in Perth, she told Jones to look after her health and hope for good luck with her choice of horse for each of the 40km stints.

Jones' trip wasn't without its difficulties, with one horse getting bogged and another threatening to throw her from its back for the entire ride.

"It's just phenomenal how these horses are just so incredibly tough, just amazingly so," she said.

"I wouldn't have ridden my horses over some of the terrain that these little fellows just ate up like it was nothing."

The challenge faced by the three Australian riders - who are all from WA - prompted a close following, including Albuino's partner Ash Carpenter who followed his journey using an online tracking system.

'It was the most amazing thing I've ever done in my life.'"Horse rider *Sam Jones *

The West Australian

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