Dubai: It seemed like a perfect day to be a part of an extraordinary sporting event taking place at Nad Al Sheba, just outside the bustling city of Dubai.
The year was 1996 and history was set to be made with the staging of the first-ever Dubai World Cup, the most highly anticipated and talked-about flat race that boasted a record prize of $4 million — the highest that had ever been on offer in the sport then.
The 2,000m dirt contest was the final event of a well-crafted card of races that were run over a variety of distances to cater to sprinters, milers and stayers.
And at 4pm and under beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine, a horse called Kassbaan streaked home to win the Nad Al Sheba Sprint, a 1,200m dirt dash that was the second race of the day.
In the early days of UAE racing and with sponsorship of the racing at a premium, Gulf News would then lend its name to the event - which would evolve into one of the great short distance races ever staged in the bustling metropolis of Dubai.
When they Dubai World Cup committee, led by the late Dr Michael Osborne, Colonel Ali Khamis Al Jafleh, Lord John Fitzgerald, Nick Clark and Yasir Mabrouk, offered Gulf News the opportunity to be a member of the Dubai racing family, few would have thought that the partnership would flourish into one of the longest-standing — and forever maturing — alliances in the sport of horseracing.
There was excitement and enthusiasm all around as racing fans from around the world cheered history in the making. Friendly and stylishly attired men and women floated around greeting familiar faces, human and equine alike. The atmosphere was electric.
Flash forward to 2021 and Gulf News continues its everlasting romance with the Dubai World Cup meeting, which will celebrate its 25th Anniversary on Saturday at Meydan Racecourse.
It seems a long time since that iconic first race meeting was held at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, which in 2010 made way for the state-of-the-art Meydan that sits at the pinnacle of sporting venues across the globe.
Over the years, Gulf News has enthusiastically joined the Dubai Racing Club as host and sponsor of the Dubai Golden Shaheen, a race that has not only defined the race meeting but the newspaper’s approach to saluting sporting excellence through its columns. They would go on to become a major promoter of not just Meydan’s activities, but all forms of flat racing and equine sports around the UAE and across the world.
Even to this day, Gulf News offers high quality and in-depth coverage of horseracing, and come Saturday, they will also celebrate their 25th year as a promoter and partner of the Dubai World Cup meeting through its involvement with the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
As a racing columnist, I have had the absolute privilege and honour to share the life-changing experience of covering each and every Dubai World Cup meeting for Gulf News since 1996.
It seems surreal and my mind wanders through the unforgettable memories that I have of the Dubai World Cup meeting, most of them being as fresh as if they happened just yesterday...