It's one of the biggest social and sporting events of the year, but the Dubai World Cup 2012 at Meydan, with its $10 million (Dh36.7 million) cash prize, proved that it's not all about the money. When it comes to having fun, the guests — whether they were perched high in the exclusive, invites-only premium enclosures, seated at the Dh25 entry general admission area, or tottering around in pretty frocks at the fashionable Dh350-entry Apron Views — were all united in their mission to enjoy the equestrian action. Agreed, the sartorial splendour and the view onto the parade ring were directly proportional to a person's wealth, but tabloid! found out that adrenaline-laced and emotionally-charged cheers sounded off from every corner of the expansive viewer stands.
"It's so calm here and it's such a privilege to catch all the action from up above. The view to the parade ring couldn't be better," said Talita Faria Spindler, as she sipped on her bubbly.
Clad in a black and white Dior dress, dripping with Chanel pearls and carrying a Lady Dior Cannage tote, the 27-year-old Brazilian was one of the guests at The Stirrup Lounge — the hospitality lounge put on by tailors Logsdail London.
Boasting a gentleman's supper-club ambience, you could even spot a few gentleman in traditional black morning suits — generally considered de rigueur at Royal Ascot. Some of the privileged guests injected a bit of drama into the elite party — one, who asked to be named only as David, wore a town crier's red and gold robe. "It's a great evening and I am just following the traditions followed by my father. This has been a tradition in my family. Just taking up the mantle here. It's a fun evening," said David.
In this invites-only enclosure on the fifth floor of Meydan, beverages and English favourites including cake, shepherd's pie and seafood cocktail from the celebrity-endorsed restaurant The Ivy circulated freely.
"What's not to enjoy? The food is perfect, the view to watch the racing action spectacular and my company exquisite," said Beverly Jones.
The Mehtas, the invitees of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the Falcon enclosure, called the Dubai World Cup an "unforgettable experience". "We attend Royal Ascot every year in the UK and my wife and I are great racing enthusiasts. What Royal Ascot is to the UK, Dubai World Cup is to the UAE — the experience in both places is spectacular," said Yogesh Mehta, managing director of Petrochem Middle East.
Down below at the Apron Views — the hub of all things fashionable — the mood was upbeat as guests took some quick decisions. To enter or not to enter the Jaguar Style Stakes, to order french fries or not to go with your burger from the food court were some of the choicesto be made. And unlike the hospitality lounges studded with guests in high-end designer goodies, women in this grassy zone embraced high street labels such as Zara, Top Shop, H&M and Next with fervour.
For best friends Lauren Flaherty and Sarah Jenson, the Dubai World Cup is their idea of an extended girls' night out.
"We plan our vacations around it. It's our third year at the World Cup and we love the atmosphere, the people, the ambience and the buzz. And we have even made friends for life here," said Jensen, clad in a coral dress.
For some, the racing action is a perfect backdrop to celebrating their birthday in style.
"Every year, the Dubai World Cup has coincided with my birthday. For me, the World Cup is the perfect excuse to dress up and celebrate my special day in style. I think every woman loves the chance to go all out and indulge in a Cinderella fantasy of their own," said Hilda Oomen, who tried to emulate Kate Middleton while choosing her hat.
Fashion may have been the centre-piece at Apron Views, but at the general seating next door all eyes were trained on the racing tracks. At the general admissions enclosure — dominated by men who meant business — people were not interested in horsing around as they discussed animatedly which jockey would take home the coveted prize money.
"I come every year with my friends, we don't miss it. We come together in one car, take the shuttle bus from the public parking and talk all day about horses. We will come back every year," said Bashaar Mohammad from Al Ain.