Preprations in full swing for Dubai World Cup at Meydan. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: When the hooves come out, the hats come on. Horse racing season is bringing out all the mad hatters about town as fashion retailers report galloping sales of hats and dresses ahead of the fashion-conscious Dubai World Cup.

“It’s just mad, mad busy every single year and we’re more busy this week. This year everyone seems to have left their shopping to the last minute,” said Angela Walton, owner of Oasis Fashion, a clothing boutique in Wafi mall.

The store, which will customize hats according to the dress you wear, sold 20 times more hats in March than other months to customers. Prices range from Dh75 to Dh950 for the ‘big production’ or large hats.

“For the first few years of the races, people went and wore hats but it wasn’t a big thing. Now it just got bigger and bigger. Definitely March is the best month for us because of the races…it’s an excellent season for hats,” Walton said.

Other fashion retailers around Dubai say the horse racing season has set their sales galloping.

“Hats in general have been flying out of the stores,” a Debenhams spokesperson said. “The last few weeks have been fantastic. The stores are really buzzing.”

Marks and Spencer says it planned “a significantly larger range” this year based on customer demand.

“Headgear fashion has become quite popular in the region especially during the polo matches and the Dubai World Cup. A good hat not only keeps the sparing temperatures at bay, it also makes a style statement,” said Julie Howett, head of merchandising and buying for lingerie at Marks and Spencer. “Our sales have been extremely positive and floral and colour block dresses are the bestsellers.”

Amalia Gomes, channel manager in the banking sector, said she will attend an Easter church service at St. Mary’s Catholic Church which will celebrate the holiday in different languages.

“I look forward to Easter Vigil Mass at 8 pm [on Saturday], which ironically is supposed to be a midnight. Still, it is a beautiful service. said Gomes. “The hymns and the celebratory parts are enjoyable. I like best the Easter wishes at the end of the service which are delivered by members of the congregation in different languages like Tagalog, Hindi, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, etc.”

Indian expatriate Abdul Wahab Abdul Kader, 34, is a racing fan and plans to attend the World Cup and its related events this year.

Dubai resident Tanisha G, 26, a PR account executive and copywriter, said that she is excited to be among the thousands attending the Dubai World Cup on Saturday evening. “Equestrian exhilaration meets elegance at an event that no one should miss out on and one that I’ll be at. Add celebrated singer Seal to the mix and you have a weekend that is no less than a gathering for the Grammies,” she said.

At US$27.25 million [Dh100.08 million] the Dubai World Cup, first run 18 years ago in 1996, remains the richest horse race on earth, featuring 121 of the world’s finest race horses across all nine races.

It has been staged at the purpose built 60,000 capacity Meydan Racecourse for the past four years. A number of tickets are still available in select locations. Tickets for general admission cost Dh25 per person, while children under 12-years-old go free. Gates open at 2pm and close at 12.30am.

Hotels across categories in the emirates are experiencing high occupancies leaving visitors hunting for hotel rooms.

Kempinski Mall of the Emirates is fully booked this weekend, according to its top executive. “We are 100 per cent booked until April 10. This weekend is naturally full of extra traffic,” Ulrich Eckhardt, Kempinski Hotels’ President for the Middle East, Africa and India, told Gulf News. He added that hotels like theirs get filled up by the entourage that comes along with the jockeys.

Similarly, Starwood hotels are running high occupancies. “Dubai will welcome many regional and international travellers this weekend for the event, which is great for the city, as well as for our hotels here which are already at a high occupancy. We are well positioned to meet the demand for hotel rooms in Dubai with 14 properties,” said Guido de Wilde, Senior Vice President, Regional Director, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Middle East.

And Fujairah hotels, too, are lapping up the opportunity. Hazem Aouad, Cluster Director of Sales and Marketing at Radisson Royal Hotel Dubai and Radisson Blu Resort Fujairah, said, during the event the average occupancy at their hotels will be around 90 per cent. “We are experiencing a very busy weekend ahead due to the market demand and are expecting to be fully booked,” he said.