The Dubai World Cup 2018 is one of the world’s richest horse races with a USD 30 million pot (USD 10 million to overall winner) for nine high-class races. It’s always the final event in the horse racing season and Dubai’s biggest sporting event of the year. Not just for fans of horse racing, this star-studded affair is a social event where fashionistas and the rich and famous mingle amongst 50,000 visitors for the day’s events. Held at the over-the-top Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, the World Cup has been in operation every year since 1996. This year there are 136 horses nominated for the position of overall winner. American West Coast is a favourite, along with horses from countries including Great Britain, Japan, and the UAE.
The World Cup can be traced back to 1981 when a racetrack in Dubai—the dusty Camel Track—held the first official Thoroughbred races. The horses raced in a sprint, a mile, and a mile and a half races. This racetrack was the beginning of a vision by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid who was focused on creating an international horse racing scene in the UAE. In 1992 the Dubai Racing Club was created and the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse was opened, and in March 1993 they hosted the Dubai International Jockeys’ Challenge (DIJC) with riders from five countries including the UAE. This was the precursor to the Dubai World Cup. 2010 ushered in the opening of the spectacular Meydan Grandstand and Racecourse which is the world’s largest integrated racing facility. Just the Grandstand is over a mile long.
Before the UAE established itself as a world-renowned racing centre, youth raced their horses bareback across the desert for fun. There were casual races where everyone followed unwritten rules, and many different horses and riders participated. Horse racing has come a long way since then, but the passion for speed and horses hasn’t changed.
Every Thoroughbred horse racing in the World Cup can trace their bloodlines from one of three desert-bred Arabian stallions who had been imported to Britain: The Gondolphin Arabian (in 1729), The Darley Arabian (in 1704), and the Byerley Turk (in the 1680s). To have the descendants of these horses return to the Emirates brings the history of these magnificent animals full circle to where they began. Purebred Arabians race in the Dubuai Kahayla Classic race which has traditionally opened the World Cup, the Maktoum Challenge races, and the Arabian Triple Crown series.
Betting is illegal in the UAE, and the World Cup is no exception to the rule. Although it may take time to adjust one’s vision of horse racing to not include betting, it ultimately lends itself to an experience where the horses, the race, and the attendees all become centre stage to a truly spectacular day at the races.
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