The Emirates Racing Authority was founded in 1990 and on the first running of the Dubai World Cup in 1996 an amazing new track, created on the plans of the Maktoum family was unveiled at Nad Al Sheba. The dream was to build a state-of-the-art racecourse in Dubai which would attract the world’s best racehorses, and this dream most definitely came to pass.
The Dubai World Cup is run every March in Dubai, and is a racing challenge, run over ten furlongs, and has the biggest prizes to match. The race is open to Northern Hemisphere bred four-year-olds and older and Southern Hemisphere bred three-year-olds and older, and participants have come from twelve different countries. Goldolphin, founded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, have had five winners of the Dubai World Cup since 1996, have been crowned Champion British Owner on seven occasions, have a 54% ratio of winners to runners, and boast Frankie Dettori as one of their jockeys. This of course all makes perfect sense when you consider the fact it is believed that horse racing became a professional sport in the UK in the 12th century, when the English knights returned from the Crusades with Arab horses. The Arabian Horse, which hails from Middle Eastern deserts, is acknowledged as being the purest and oldest of all horse breeds, and has incredible stamina – being able to carry its rider at speed across miles of open desert with little food or water. Today, almost every breed and type of horse has traces of Arab blood and all English Thoroughbreds that are used in horseracing in the UK today are descended from three Arabian stallions: Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian or Godolphin Arabian, which were imported to Britain in the late 17th and early 18th century.
For more than two decades, horse owners and breeders from the Arab world have worked to establish the Arab presence in international thoroughbred racing, and with the development of the Dubai World Cup have established themselves as one of the world’s top racing challenges. In a little over a decade they have created one of the highlights of the international racing calendar. Placement in the race is by invite only, and anyone invited naturally turns up as the top prize is $ 6 million, but the lure is not just in the prize money – the horsemen get generous subsidies for supporting horseracing in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai enjoys a formidable reputation due to its quality, generosity, and sunshine, and has become a mecca for both horse enthusiasts and tourists alike with 50,000 racegoers attending the Dubai World Cup meeting each year.
The Nad Al Sheba racecourse held the Dubai World Cup for the last time in 2009 as their new racetrack Meydan will host the 2010 Dubai World Cup and its associated races next March. The vision of HH Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum leaves much for other nations to aspire to when it comes to horseracing! As glamorous as it all sounds though, the Grand National will do for me
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