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Counting down to the 25th edition of the Dubai World Cup

Saddle up for the historic 25th-anniversary edition of the Dubai World Cup, the richest day in international horse racing and one of the grandest spectacles on the emirate’s action-packed sporting and social calendar

On March 27, the who’s who of the equestrian community will gather at Meydan Racecourse for the Dubai World Cup – the world’s richest day in horse racing. It’s the culmination of yet another season of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, which runs across 10 weeks from early January to the last Saturday in March and ends with Dubai World Cup. The season’s final series of races will see top-calibre horses from around the globe compete for a staggering prize fund of US$35 million (AED128 million). 

First held 25 years ago, Dubai World Cup has transformed into a major international event, not only attracting the finest thoroughbreds and equestrian enthusiasts, but also a stylish trackside crowd, who are eager to revel in the electrifying atmosphere. A-list performers, who entertain the audiences with a spectacular after-race concert, are also in attendance.

Throughout the day, there are nine group races, but it is the final sprint that has become the most prestigious. Carrying a prize purse of US$12 million (AED44 million), Group 1 Dubai World Cup holds the title of the richest horse race in the world. 

The legendary American racehorse, Cigar, won the very first edition of Dubai World Cup back in 1996, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey. Since its inaugural running, the race had become so competitive that no horse had ever triumphed on more than one occasion in the history of the hotly-contested sport – that is, until 2019. 

Irish-bred Thunder Snow made history in 2019 as the only two-time winner of Dubai World Cup. The thoroughbred is owned by Godolphin Racing, the stables of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Clearly, the expectations have skyrocketed and all eyes are set on the thoroughbred this year to see if it bags yet another victory for the third time in a row.

While the Dubai World Cup culminates in its namesake race, throughout the meet, there is an exciting schedule of competitions, including the Dubai Gold Cup, UAE Derby and the Dubai Sheema Classic, which has a sizeable prize fund of US$6 million (AED22 million) up for grabs.

Aside from the action on the track, there is also an incredible hospitality offering within Meydan Racecourse’s impressive mile-long grandstand. An array of venues promise unbeatable trackside views and guests can savour gourmet meals and beverages in five-star luxury.

The First Class Lounge and Falcon Suite offer panoramic views of the track, while the Premium area in the grandstand is perfectly positioned opposite the finish line and boasts a variety of food and beverage kiosks.

There are also some great options for those seeking a closer look at the runners and riders ahead of the races. The Breakfast with the Stars package is staged on Meydan Racecourse’s Apron Views during morning track-work and features a lavish breakfast buffet, live commentary and interviews with trainers and jockeys. Similarly, the Winner’s Circle Restaurant provides guests access to the Parade Ring Lawns, allowing them to get a close-up view of the horses that have emerged victorious.

Of course, like all great meets around the world, the revelry off the track is as much of a draw as the races themselves. At Dubai World Cup, the fashion stakes are high with the annual Jaguar Style Stakes competition awarding prizes to the trendiest racegoers, including Best Dressed Couple and Most Creative Hat. A prime opportunity for ladies to don extraordinary frocks and dapper gents to turn heads in their best suits, there is always plenty of sartorial flair on show both trackside and in the grandstands. 

With some of the finest thoroughbreds in the world competing for millions of dollars in front of an ultra-stylish crowd, the eyes of the racing world will be firmly set on Dubai World Cup. So on March 27, with equestrian history once again set to be made, Meydan Racecourse is the place to be and be seen. 

25 years of horse racing

Horse racing, as a sport, made its way to Dubai in 1981. Back then, races were held on a dusty camel track. In 1992, the Dubai Racing Club launched and within a year since its opening, the Dubai International Jockeys’ Challenge was organised. The event inspired the creation of a horse racing competition for enthusiasts of the sport. Dubai World Cup was then instated and the first race was held in 1996, which saw American super horse, Cigar, crowned as the winner.

Today, Dubai World Cup holds the title of the world’s richest horse race. It started with a US$4 million (AED14 million) prize purse in 1996 and has eventually grown to a series of races worth US$35 million (AED128 million) topped by the final race of the day, which sees the winning thoroughbred and jockey walk away with US$12 million (AED44 million).

Entertainment guaranteed

While the action on the track has always been an entertaining spectacle for horse racing fans, Dubai World Cup decided to dial up the action back in 2012 by introducing an after-race concert. Starting with US singer Toni Braxton, the line-up over the years has seen the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Minogue, Janet Jackson, Sia and Gwen Stefani draw the event to a close.

Raising the bar

It’s not just the horses that go head to head on race day. When it comes to off-track fashion, the competition is known to be just as fierce. From ladies donning extraordinary hats and fabulous frocks, to dapper gents turning up in their best suits, each year the city’s style set comes together to battle it out for the crown of best dressed at the Jaguar Style Stakes.

Gourmet delights

While all eyes remain fixed on the horses throughout each race, there’s plenty of gourmet treats on offer as racegoers 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.

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