A day at the races - the Dubai World Cup
The world's richest horserace has been given an iconic new setting, the state-of-the-art stadium at Meydan CityBy Vanessa Viara
Ready. Set. Go! The bell rings, the gates open and the race has begun. Out flash the magnificent horses, all Thoroughbred, galloping at top speed along the 2,000 meter course. The jockeys are at one with their mounts, an age-old, almost mystical combination of man and animal, in the attempt to make it to the finish line first. And for almost two minutes nothing else matters. Time seems to freeze as these horses advance down the track, cheered on by thousands of frantic spectators in the grandstand. The winner will be decided by a length, a half-length, or the inexorable precision of a photo-finish.
Horse racing, The Sport of Kings, has been a favourite sport all over the world for centuries, but the most prestigious events involve thoroughbred horses. This breed descends directly from the Arabian horse, and Thoroughbreds are widely used in racing for their speed and sprinting prowess. In the Dubai Emirate, horseracing began in October 1981, with the first Thoroughbred meeting raced on the dusty camel track. The organizer was UAE Vice President and Prime Minister of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who was deeply devoted to horses. Ten years later, the Dubai Racing Club had been established, but restrictions on horse import and export for racing meant that races in those years were international only as regards jockeys. But this paved the way towards The Dubai World Cup, first held in 1996. That momentous race culminated in an epic finale, won by less than a length by the American horse Cigar and his jockey Jerry Bailey in a nail-biting neck-to-neck battle with stablemate Soul of the Matter. The race put Cigar into the history books - it was a remarkable achievement to travel over 6,000 miles and win the $5 million purse - and put Dubai on the world map for future racing events. From then on, the Dubai World Cup has been held annually. Today, the purse has reached $10 million, making it the richest horserace in the world. Who will the winner be this year?
The event is absolutely exclusive, with participation by invitation only. Every year proves to be more exciting than the one before, attracting ever larger crowds. The record for fastest horse is held by 2000 Dubai World Cup winner Dubai Millenium who completed the race at 1:59:50. Last year’s champion, Gloria de Campeao, was decided in a photo finish with two other contestants.
Since 2010, the Dubai World Cup has been given a new home, at Meydan City. ‘Meydan,’ which in Arabic means ‘meeting place,’ is located just 4 km from the popular Dubai Creek. Meydan Racecourse is part of the many facilities at Meydan City, a complex that includes a luxury trackside hotel, horse breeding and training facilities, fine food and beverage establishments, the Meydan Museum and Gallery dedicated to the equine heritage, a marina, and of course the Dubai Racing Club offices. The racecourse itself is a state-of-the-art facility, with a 1,750 meter all-weather Tapeta surface track and a 2,400 meter turf track. The stadium has space for over 60,000 spectators (including the Grandstand and tiered seating).
Once completed, the Meydan City complex will include another three, very modern installations. Meydan Metropolis, a combination of office space and residential properties, will be almost a city in its own right. Meydan Horizons, located near the racetrack, will include luxury commercial and residential buildings in a stylish setting, with canals and promenades. Meydan Godolphin Parks is located along the river Godolphin, which will flow underneath its future landmark, Godolphin Tower, the tallest building in the park, made instantly recognizable by a profile of a thoroughbred horse.
The 2011 Dubai World Cup will be held on 26 March 2011, with contenders from Great Britain, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Japan and of course from the United Arab Emirates. Good luck to all and may the best horse win!
Dubai Racing Club, Meydan Racecorse, Al Meydan Road, Nad Al Sheba, P.O. Box 9305 Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Tel. +971 (4) 327 0077, fax +971 (4) 327 0049. Further info from http://www.dubairacingclub.com
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