Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum,UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai and shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai during the Dubai World Cup, the world's richest horse race with a total prize fund of $27.25 million, to be staged at Meydan racecourse in Dubai. Image Credit: ATIQ-UR-REHMAN/Gulf News

Dubai: More than 50,000 spectators packed the rafters of the iconic Meydan Racecourse on Saturday for the 19th running of the world’s richest horse race, the $10 million (Dh36.7 million) Dubai World Cup.

The nine-race card totalling $27.25 million brought an end to the three-month-long Dubai World Cup Carnival, which has seen more than $36 million in prize money distributed over 11 race meetings.

This was the 11th Dubai World Cup Carnival season-ender since the racing festival was created in 2004, and the fifth to be held at the spectacular, purpose-built, 60,000-capacity Meydan facility, which has attracted international acclaim since it opened its doors in 2010.

A breathtaking opening ceremony and pyrotechnic display had earlier wowed the crowds and cemented the event’s status as the highlight of the UAE’s sport and social calendar.

Jennifer Lopez, one of the most influential female pop artists of all time, with record sales in excess of $75 million and a cumulative movie box office gross of more than $2 billion, brought the curtain down on yet another year with her long-awaited, high-octane concert.

As 111 of the world’s best thoroughbreds and 16 purebred Arabians competed on racing’s greatest stage, the entire spectacle once again showcased the city as the planet’s glamour capital, where style, culture and sophistication oozed in equal measure.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, heralded the success of the Dubai World Cup concept in the event’s official programme notes.

Shaikh Mohammad’s comments also recognised the contribution that the Dubai World Cup has made towards accelerating the city’s status as a premier sports and cultural tourism hub, while adding a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour to the traditional sport of kings.

“From the very beginning, the vision for racing in Dubai was always to offer a stage on which the world’s best may come together to compete every year for the highest rewards in the racing industry,” Shaikh Mohammad said. “It is a matter of pride to all involved in horse racing in this emirate that this concept continues to thrive.

“In the years since the seed of international racing was first sown, Dubai has grown into a renowned destination for horse racing excellence and this is reflected in the quality of competitors that arrive annually on our shores, as well as the truly global reach of the event.

“Thanks to the Dubai World Cup, the message of Dubai has reached all corners of the globe, highlighting the advances that continue to be made in our emirate.”

Over the past three years, more than one billion people have watched the Dubai World Cup across 134 countries, penetrating more than 300 million households worldwide.

That’s according to Sunset+Vine, the company that produces the Dubai World Cup’s international programme in association with Dubai Racing Club and world-feed broadcasters, Dubai TV. All parties are now actively exploring ways to increase that global reach.

With a new champion set to be added to a hall of fame already graced by legendary names such as Cigar, Dubai Millennium, Roses In May and Street Cry, Shaikh Mohammad said the Dubai World Cup was firmly established as the world’s most prestigious, as well as richest, horse race.

“Now, victory in the Dubai World Cup represents a career-defining moment in the lives of the trainers and jockeys, while the winning horse is assured of a place in the racing record books that can never be erased,” Shaikh Mohammad’s message read. “It is an event of spectacle and achievement, of competition and colour.”

Looking ahead, organisers of the Dubai World Cup have targeted year-on-year improvement, with the prize money for the world’s two richest turf races — the $5 million Dubai Duty Free and the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic — raised to $6 million each from 2015 in recognition of the event’s 20th anniversary.

“The number 20 has grown to become such a significant number for Dubai,” said Saeed Al Tayer, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Meydan, in reference to Dubai’s successful Expo2020 bid, at the Dubai World Cup meeting’s Post Position Draw at Meydan on Wednesday.

“It is a number that represents our achievements, past and future. Dubai is proud to host Dubai Expo 2020, an event that will further display to the world our achievement and vision for the future.

“Next year, we celebrate the 20th running of the Dubai World Cup. To mark this most special anniversary, we will increase the prize money for both the Dubai Duty Free and Dubai Sheema Classic to $6 million each.”