190325 singspiel
Singspiel, Jerry Bailey astride, is led into the winner‘s paddock after his victory in the 1997 Dubai World Cup. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Dubai: If the inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup in 1996 set the standard for the much-needed globalization of horseracing, then the 1997 renewal would demonstrate Dubai’s resilience in the face of adversity.

Rains are a rarity in this part of the world, but as luck would have it, the skies opened up prior to the first race and lashed the Nad Al Sheba racecourse -leaving it covered with sheets of water.

Then came an iconic moment.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who was the brain behind the race meeting, was seen walking on to the track to inspect the damage.

It was obvious that the day could not be saved and who can ever forget watching his every move as he would soon pause, turn to the crowds and draw his hand across his threat to concede that the weather had won and robbed Dubai of its red-letter day.

Having worked round the clock, writing story after story on the Dubai World Cup and its supporting races, I felt cheated, drained and defeated.

It was all over, at least, that’s what I thought.

However, I failed to recognize the resilience and determination of Sheikh Mohammed who would order the event to be rescheduled the following week and invited all the international connections to extend their stay in Dubai and be his guest.


There was I, feverishly back at my computer churning out new stories about the mammoth operation underway at Nad Al Sheba, involving UAE Air Force helicopters called in to assist in the drying of the track together with an army of workers doing everything that it takes to drain the water.

And they did.

Within a couple of days, and with the help of some glorious sunshine, Nad Al Sheba was ready to put on a show. It seemed only fitting that Singspiel, a horse owned by Sheikh Mohammed, would win the race from the American duo of Siphon and Sandpit.

And, for the second year running, the winner was American great Jerry Bailey.

However, the memories that almost everyone took away from the 1997 Dubai World Cup, was about one man’s never-say-die attitude to bounce back from adversity and turn it into an all-round success.