Friday, 02 June 2023 07:24 GMT

Dubai Gallops To Pole Position In The Big League Of Horse Racing Destinations

(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Thu 23 Mar 2023, 10:07 PM

When the starting gates for the first race at the Dubai World Cup open on Saturday, the thunder of hooves on the track will send a wave of excitement not only across the half-a-mile-long grandstand at the Meydan Racecourse but also among millions of racing enthusiasts worldwide tuning in to the broadcast of the planet's most spectacular race day.

The 27th Dubai World Cup, to be held on Saturday, 25March, is an unmatched drawcard for talent in the sport, bringing together 129 horses from 13 countries.

A total of 78 international and 51 Emirati horses including those from the fabled Godolphin stable, will be contesting for a prize money of $30.5 million.

For the worldwide equestrian community, the Dubai World Cup represents the pinnacle of excellence not just in racing but also in many streams of the thoroughbred industry. Playing out on the tracks is not only a match-up of equine athleticism but also scientific expertise and specialised equine know-how, areas in which Dubai has emerged as a global frontrunner.

Over the last two decades, Dubai has created a vibrant equestrian ecosystem that produces both champion horses and hotbeds of industry innovation.

Sheikh Rashed bin Dalmook Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Racing Club said:“Dubai's emergence as one of the world's great horse racing destinations has been shaped by the far-reaching vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who sought to embed the highest standards in every aspect of the sport. He himself was a successful endurance rider, led many initiatives that have had a lasting transformative influence on global horse racing. The global equestrian industry acknowledges that his contributions have surpassed that of any other single individual in the history of the sport. The long-term roadmap for horse racing conceived by His Highness led to the creation of the world's largest and most global racing team, Godolphin, and the largest horse breeding operation, Darley.”

Strong traditions

Dubai's emergence as a horse racing hub is entrenched in age-old equine traditions in the region. More than 300 years ago, the cross-breeding of three Arabian stallions, The Darley Arabian, The Godolphin Arabian and The Byerley Turk, gave rise to the foundation lines of modern thoroughbreds. Today, the majority of thoroughbreds can be traced to these three Arabian sires. Sheikh Mohammed's own passion for horses grew into a major bloodstock operation that became Godolphin, the global thoroughbred breeding operation and horseracing team that now spans four continents.

Thoroughbred racing began its ambitious global expansion in 1996 in the emirate when the first Dubai World Cup was held. The presence of some of the world's best horses including Cigar, the all-conquering American champion, who won the inaugural event, announced the tournament's emergence as a major global fixture. Later, the emirate started the Dubai World Cup Carnival in 2004, a nine-week series of races.

Since its inception, the Dubai World Cup has produced some of the sport's fiercest contests and most memorable feats. In 2000, Godolphin's Dubai Millennium won one of the tournament's most cherished triumphs while in 2008 another American star Curlin won by one of the biggest margins of victory in the Cup's history. Three years later, in 2011, Victoire Pisa and Transcend gave Japan a first win and a 1 – 2 finish in the coveted race. In 2012, Godolphin returned to the victory podium with Monterosso placed first and Capponi second. In 2017, world champion Arrogate wowed the world with an impossible last-to-first victory while in 2018 and 2019, Thunder Snow won top honours becoming the only horse to win the Dubai World Cup twice. In 2021, Mystic Guide recorded a 13th win for UAE connections, 11 of which were for Team Godolphin.

Exceptional infrastructure

“Dubai's infrastructure for horse racing events, combined with its world-class hospitality and tourism offerings, make it an exceptional venue for a global tournament of the scale of the Dubai World Cup,” says Sheikh Rashed bin Dalmook.

The nucleus of Dubai's burgeoning equestrian industry cluster is the Meydan Racecourse, the globe's largest integrated racing facility. The Racecourse features a 1,750 m dirt surface and a 2,400 m turf course, making it the world's longest horseracing track.

Further, with the world's first five-star trackside hotel and largest grandstand spanning half a mile, the Meydan Racecourse provides one of the most spectacular settings for global horse racing tournaments,” he added.

The massive increase in prize money for the 2021-2022 racing season reinforced Dubai's status as an international horse racing hub. Further, several new initiatives by the largest local industry stakeholders, estimated to be worth Dh1.47billion, are giving a strong impetus to the global industry. One of these, the Dubai Equestrian Forum, launched in 2021, a joint initiative between the Dubai Equestrian Club and the Dubai Racing Club, brings together stakeholders from all over the world to the Meydan Racecourse to explore how they can shape a new future for the industry.

Hub for equine breeding, training and healthcare

Dubai is also playing a pivotal part in advancing global expertise in horse breeding and training. Godolphin trainers lead a horseracing and breeding operation that involves around 1,000 horses worldwide. The emirate is also a leading player in equine healthcare, with many high-end hospitals and clinics that include the Dubai Equine Hospital, established in 1995.


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