From seasoned race-goers to budding equestrian enthusiasts and trackside stylistas, Dubai World Cup brings together a melting pot of fans eager to revel in the electrifying atmosphere of the world’s richest horse race. Now in its 21st year, the event is a firm fixture not only on the city’s sporting calendar but also on the global stage. While Dubai World Cup 2016 Carnival’s 11-week race schedule officially began on January 7, anticipation has been steadily gaining momentum for months as the hard work and dedication from all those participating culminates in the run-up to the big day on March 26, by which point the countrywide excitement will no doubt be palpable. Held at the prestigious Meydan Racecourse, the total prize purse stands at a whopping US$38.9 million with a generous US$10 million going to the victor of the main race.
“The Dubai World Cup has become an extremely important event on the international racing scene, evidenced by the 27 countries that have been represented here by runners in the past,” says Martin Talty, international manager at Dubai Racing Club. With the world’s leading owners, trainers and jockeys all vying to be a part of it, the line up brings together the best of the best and includes participants from Godolphin stables founded by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.
An exciting year
One of last year’s main talking points, of course, was the competition’s return to a dirt track, rather than the all-weather turf that had previously been favoured since the grounds were rebuilt as Meydan Racecourse. And along with the return of the dirt track came, by in large, the return of the American racers who had started to wane since the synthetic Tapeta surface came into play in 2010. Prior to that many of the stateside teams dominated, winning eight titles in the first 14 years of the Dubai World Cup. Although much of last year’s attentions were focused on the American participants, with California Chrome pitted as the one to beat, it was, in fact, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Prince Bishop from Godolphin Stables that stormed to an unexpected victory. The result led to Prince Bishop taking the title as the race’s oldest winner, and also signalled the seventh win for the local stable’s celebrated trainer Saeed bin Suroor. American favourites California Chrome and Lea placed runner-up and third, respectively.
Once again California Chrome seems to be generating plenty of buzz. The former Kentucky Derby winner and his team are gearing up for his second shot at the trophy, which if it were to be successful would see him become America’s highest-earning racehorse. Others to watch out for include Fascinating Rock from Ireland, Australian contenders Darley Classic and Delectation, and Toormore, Godolphin’s British-trained thoroughbred. “The quality of the horses that have been nominated for the Carnival speaks for itself,” explains Meydan group vice chairman, and chairman of the Meydan Racing Committee, Malih Al Basti. “These great athletes compete for some of the highest prizes in the industry in the run-up to Dubai World Cup 2016,” he added. This year’s accepted horses hail from 16 countries including South Korea’s first participants Cheongu and Success Story. The Dubai Kahayla Classic kicks off the day’s exciting nine-race schedule, with other significant races including the Godolphin Mile, Al Quoz Sprint and Dubai Sheema Classic with a sizable prize fund of USD$6 million.
Access all areas
Aside from all the action on the track, there is also an incredible hospitality offering. While all eyes remain fixed on the horses throughout each race, there’s plenty on offer to entertain as race-goers wait for the next heat. From private terraces with unbeatable views of the track to premium lounges where guests can enjoy meals and beverages, there is ample opportunity for those looking to enjoy the event in five-star luxury at the purpose-built venue. Popular with corporate guests and networking parties, the Turf Suite on Level 4 of the Meydan Grandstand presents a lavish private dining area with outstanding views of the finish line for 300 to 500 people. The First Class Lounge and Falcon Suite are also exclusive venues that offer fabulous vistas of the track from the terrace and balcony. If you’re after a grandstand view head to The Premium area. Perfectly located opposite the finish line, it boasts a variety of food and beverage kiosks. Ahead of race day, those with a passion for all things equestrian should try the Breakfast with the Stars package. Taking place at Meydan Grandstand Apron Views, enjoy an inside look at some of the Dubai World Cup contenders as they prepare for the event with morning track work, as you tuck into a sumptuous al fresco buffet breakfast. The Apron Views is also where guests can catch all the post-race entertainment and fireworks display on the big day itself. With previous headliners including Kylie Minogue and Jennifer Lopez, the concerts are always guaranteed to be a big draw.
Raise your style stakes
It’s not just the horses that go head to head on race day. When it comes to off-track fashion, the competition has been known to be just as fierce. From the ladies donning extraordinary hats, fascinators and fabulous frocks, to dapper gents turned out in their best suits, each year the city’s style set comes together to battle it out for the crown of best dressed. With categories critiquing the best-dressed lady, man and couple, along with best and then most creative hat, the Jaguar Style Stakes stage sees a procession of stylish guests strutting their stuff in their finest threads as spectators look on.