Dubai World Cup 2022
Country Grammer, ridden by Frankie Dettori and trained by Bob Baffert, wins the Dubai World Cup at Meydan racecourse on March 26, 2022. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Thundering hooves and flying manes, they were a sight to behold at Meydan. It was the Dubai World Cup, a race that brought the world’s best thoroughbreds to the UAE.

Country Grammer stormed home to win the race with a purse of $12 million on Saturday (March 26, 2022). That was minor detail for me. I watched each of the day’s nine races with impish delight. It was my first World Cup, although I’ve been in Dubai for over two decades.

I may not have been at the races, but I have followed every World Cup since 2000. If you are in Dubai, you can’t escape what was the richest horse race in the world until the Pegasus World Cup, and the Saudi Cup came along.

You don’t have to be a horseracing buff to follow the Dubai World Cup. When it comes around, everyone is tuned in. I was no different, following it on office television. One enduring memory is of Dubai Millennium decimating the field in 2000. So also is Thunder Snow’s back to back wins in 2018 and 2019.

All these memories came flooding back. I walked into Meydan on Saturday. The last time I went to races was in 1991 to watch the legendary jockey Lester Piggott ride at the Bangalore racecourse. Meydan was different. Very different. The ambience and environs were awe-inspiring.

The racecourse is an imposing structure with its dirt and turf tracks. A gleaming grandstand overlooks the home stretch. The grandeur is unmistakable.

Racegoers had turned up in their best attire to win the famous Style Stakes ¬— a major event in the social calendar. There was a parade of hats on the heads of elegantly dressed ladies in the stands.

But it was the action of the track that was the cynosure of all eyes. The Dubai Kahayla Classic for the Purebred Arabians set the tone with First Classs (yes, with 3s) winning a tight finish. Then the Japanese took a stranglehold on the meeting with five wins. That was before Country Grammer won. It sure was a World Cup to remember.