Meydan is preparing for the Dubai World Cup once again
Meydan is preparing for the Dubai World Cup once again Image Credit: Dubai Racing Club

Meydan Racecourse is expected to be packed once again on Dubai World Cup night after organisers prepare to welcome back capacity crowds for the spectacular 26th running of the Group 1 Dubai World Cup on March 26.

While the $12 million race and its undercard have attracted the very best from around the world over the years, the excitement is bound to amplify race day with a massive crowd expected at the 80,000-capacity venue, further reinforces the city’s rising status as one of the globe’s leading venues for international sporting events.

Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmook Al Maktoum, the Chairman of Dubai Racing Club
Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmook Al Maktoum, the Chairman of Dubai Racing Club Image Credit: Supplied

Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmook Al Maktoum, the Chairman of Dubai Racing Club, said: “We are so happy to have everyone back here for what will be a fantastic 26th running of the Dubai World Cup meeting. The atmosphere will be absolutely electrifying.

“The quality of the horses, trainers, owners and jockeys who have assembled is better than ever and we are looking forward to a superb day of racing with our guests from all over the world.

“I would like to thank our partners for their support and also the team at Dubai Racing Club, who have worked so hard to bring this meeting together.

“The first-ever Dubai Breeze-Up Sale is something we are all looking forward to eagerly as well, as it gives owners and connections in the region the chance to view and purchase some of the best bred two-year-old horses in their backyard. It is something that will further cement Dubai’s position as one of the main centres for racing, not just in the region, but globally too.”

From the time Cigar blew away his opposition at Nad Al Sheba at the inaugural meeting in 1996, to Thunder Snow’s stunning title defence in 2019, the Dubai World Cup meeting has gone from strength to strength, delivering some of the finest racing ever seen around the world.

Last year’s programme saw John Gosden’s Saudi Cup winner Mishriff make a sensational return to turf and silence a strong Japanese contingent in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic before Mystic Guide, trained by Michael Stidham for Godolphin, claim a third successive Group 1 Dubai World Cup victory for the royal blue silks of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

This year, there are bound to be more thrills and spills, with horses cherry-picked by connections to have a go at the massive $30.5 million in prize money, which retains the Dubai World Cup night’s status among the richest single events in horse racing.

The $12m Group 1 Dubai World Cup sees some of the top horses face off in the 2,000m dirt contest.

This year’s renewal promises a fascinating clash between two of the best dirt horses in America in Todd Pletcher’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Pegasus World Cup winner Life Is Good and Doug O’Neill’s Hot Rod Charlie, who hit the ground running in Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 on his only start in Dubai. The pair will be joined by Country Grammer and Midnight Bourbon, trained by US Hall Of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen, who run fresh from their respective second and third-place finishes in last month’s Saudi Cup at Riyadh.

The feature is supported by eight races, including the 2,410m $6 million Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic, where a strong Japanese contingent is expected again. Tetsuya Kimura’s Neom Turf Cup winner Authority is among the favourites, but this year’s race is a wide-open one with Godolphin handler Charlie Appleby fielding one of his stable stars in Yibir, who was last seen winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar in November. Shadwell will be represented by Owen Burrows’ Hukum, who enjoyed a highly productive 2021 campaign that saw him win four of his seven starts and begin 2022 with a narrow success in the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold, run over the course and distance of the Sheema Classic.

Three more top-tier events are also part of the evening’s programme and feature the $5 million Group 1 Dubai Turf over 1,800m. Gosden’s Lord North will make a title defence bid, with Shadwell’s Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes winner Mohaafeth, trained by William Haggas, leading the opposition along with the same owner’s Alfareeq, winner of the Jebel Hatta over course and distance.

The card’s two sprints are the $1.5 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint, and the $2m Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, which this year will be sponsored by Atlantis Dubai. Both are run over an identical 1,200m trip, with the former playing out on the turf and the latter being contested as a one-turn dirt event.

British champion flat trainer Appleby, the winner of the 2018 and 2019 renewals of the Al Quoz Sprint with Jungle Cat and Blue Point respectively, has a strong grip on the race with Champion Sprint Stakes winner Creative Force and three-time course winner Man Of Promise.

Locally trained Al Tariq, Canvassed and Good Effort represent the yards of Doug Watson and Ismail Mohammed in the Dubai Golden Shaheen and are up against some talented American dirt sprinters. They include Mark Glatt’s Dr Schivel, winner of the Bing Crosby Stakes and the 2020 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity, as well as Drain The Clock, trained by Saffie Joseph Jnr.

The $1 million Group 2 Godolphin Mile will see Bhupat Seemar’s Secret Ambition defend his title, and a potent field of three-year-olds line up for the 1,800m $1 million Group 2 UAE Derby. Within that group are Baffert’s recent Saudi Derby winner Pinehurst and runner-up Sekifu, who is trained by Koshiro Take. The pair will have a formidable foe in Pavel Vashchenko’s Azure Coast, who made light work of his rivals in the UAE 2000 Guineas a month ago.

The longest race on the card is the 3,200m $1 million Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup, where Appleby’s Manobo, who is unbeaten in five career starts and won the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy on his UAE debut over a slightly shorter trip, is the odds-on favourite.

Like the Dubai Golden Shaheen, the 2,000m $1 million Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic for Purebred Arabians has a new sponsor in Ithra Dubai and — as is tradition — will get the prestigious Dubai World Cup card under way.

Crowd interest has peaked with the announcement that Meydan Racecourse will open its doors fully for this year’s Dubai World Cup meeting for the first time since 2019.

Racegoers will be required to adhere to Covid-19 related protocols mandated by the UAE Government, which means visitors must wear face masks in all indoor areas of the venue.