Dubai: An American champion, a first-timer from China and a record purse of Dh15 million all combine to make the 16th Dubai International Arabian Horse Championship (DIAHC), which starts on Thursday, one of the most highly-anticipated horse shows in the Middle East.

Exxaltress, the 2018 US National Champion, will bid to win the Two-year-old Yearling Class, one of the six hotly contested categories that will be held over the next three days at the purpose-built indoor arena in the Dubai International Convention Centre.

As many as 221 horses representing over 20 countries will compete in the 16 qualifying classes with the top three in each qualifying to the gold championships for Senior Male/Female, Junior Male/Female and Yearling Male/Female on Saturday.

Ahtood DD will make history as the first horse ever to represent China at the prestigious horse show which was created in 2004 by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance.

The event is a competition for Purebred Arabian horses who will be judged on their looks, movement and breeding.

The year’s event has attracted the highest quality of show horses among them six gold champions from the Paris World Arabian Horse Championship.

“Shaikh Hamdan wanted the bar raised, so we decided to invite only the highest rated Arabian horses,” said Ziad Galadari, Chairman of the DIAHC.

“We have focussed on quality and not quantity and as a result we believe that the competition will be very fierce. The majority of horses are very closely matched and a small tweak here and there could make the difference between winning and losing.”

The qualifying classes will be held on the first two days with the six gold championships scheduled for Saturday.

The horse show will be run alongside the 15th edition of the three-day fair which will showcase the latest equine products, horse therapies, riding apparel, art & decor, state of the art stables, feeds, grooming products and more.