The Dubai World Cup is a really big deal. It’s like the Super Bowl, FIFA World Cup, and Paris Fashion Week rolled into one day and takes place in the world’s most fascinating city.
I had lived in Dubai for a year and had learned that the biggest weekend in Dubai is the World Cup Weekend. I knew that the Dubai World Cup had the biggest purse of any horse race and that racing teams from around the world would be there. I also knew that there is a festive scene there with parties, celebrities, concerts, and fashion beyond fashion. So with huge anticipation I was ready to go.
When one speaks of the Dubai World Cup they typically are referring to the day of horse racing that takes place the last Saturday in March. The Dubai World Cup night is actually nine championship races of which the Dubai World Cup is the finale. The Dubai World Cup was created in 1996by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai who owns Darley Stud & Godolphin Racing, one of the world's leading Thoroughbred breeding and racing operations. The race is dubbed “The Richest Race in the World” and currently has a purse of 10 million dollars. The nine races of the Dubai World Cup night are recognized as the “world’s richest day in racing” with total prize money of US$27.25 million for the showcase of nine races.
In approaching the event, there are cars and traffic as far as the eyes can see. The Meydan Hotel and Racetrack is where the race takes place and is the longest building in the world. It is a huge and palatial structure and holds 60,000 people and, from all appearances, it seemed that every seat was taken and venue full. Japanese, Russian, French, German and English with a large variety of accents was heard when mingling with the crowds.
I spoke to the Food and Beverage Director while he was dashing about handling the day’s endless responsibilities. “This is the biggest secular event in the Middle East. What’s bigger? People come from around the world to be here. The hotel fills up; there is traffic from every direction to come here, and everyone is having a fantastic time. The stands and venues are sold out. This event is one of a kind and only happens once a year. “
As mentioned, the Meydan Hotel and Racecorse is a huge structure. It can take 30 minutes to walk from one side to the other. And along each pace on the 10 levels of the property are various five star hotel suites, viewing rooms, and entertainment sections.
There was a wide range of tailored hospitality packages at top-class restaurants, lounges and private suites – all with stunning views of the racetrack. Down below revelers were in the heart of the social action at Apron Views where they enjoyed hospitality from the the famous Bubble Lounge, Irish Village and Jaguar Style Stakes competition. Fine dining, libations, and music are the norm while the nattily dressed crowds took in the race from above or from the apron.
Luxury product sponsors from around the world descend on Dubai to have access to their clients for the day while entertaining and having a great time. Outdoor on the ground level, sponsors set up for viewing parties, which are crowed, and a blast.
The horse races competed for attention with world class people-watching at the event. This is the apex of fashion in the Middle East. Horse racing has a tradition of being the epitome of fashion at any sporting event and the Dubai World Cup clearly does its part to hold up this tradition. Sponsors have gotten on board with the spectacle and have put up great prizes. This is clearly not the sole reason why fashionistas don the most fabulous and some garish hats for the day. Jaguar was one of the sponsors who gave away a Jaguar F-TYPE Convertible for a year.
Following a busy day on the judging panel of the Jaguar Style Stakes, Nicola Gibson, Marketing Manager for Jaguar MENA commented; “Over the past four years as a judge I have witnessed a magnificent display of fashion and creativity. Each year I can really feel the enthusiasm and passion that participants have for the event. The stakes literally do become higher each year and it is great to see Dubai’s ladies, and gents, make such an effort with hats, fascinators, beautiful dresses and smart suits. The Style Stakes continues to be a perfect brand synergy for Jaguar as it embodies the same combination of style, elegance and grace, and we look forward to working closely with Meydan for future endeavors.”
Back on the track, the competition for the 27 million dollars in prize money was fierce. Each of the nine races that day was riveting. Thoroughbred races as well as a race with Arabian horses took place and it seemed that all were a photo finish. I’m sure that fortunes were won and lost away from the track as well. Gambling is illegal in Dubai; however, betting on the Dubai World Cup and other races at Meydan is available via simulcast and online wagering in the United States and in Europe.
The winner of the night’s biggest race was none other than African Story who bested the field to win the coveted Dubai World Cup. The fantastic thoroughbred defeated favorites Military Attack and Ruler Of The World in a close finish. African Story is trained for Godolphin by Saeed bin Suroor and ridden by jockey Silvestre De Sousa. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai owns Darley Stud & Godolphin Racing, one of the world's leading Thoroughbred breeding and racing operations. The Dubai World cup fields racing’s top four-year or older thoroughbreds for the race on 1 ¼ mile a Tapeta (all weather) surface.
After the races were done the festivities continued. An elaborate fireworks show captivated the 60,000 in attendance as the night sky lit up with sparkles and booms of every form and fashion set off in a dazzling synchronized display.
At this point of the day, the fashion seemed to loose priority while the partying seemed to crescendo. There is a tradition of big stars performed at the biggest party in the Middle East and this year’s event was no exception. J-Lo took the stage and in a heroic feat managed to increased the excitement to the next level.
It was a fantastic day of thrills, fun, and spectacle. It was everything it was hyped up to be and more. It was, the Dubai World Cup.
See video and additional photos on Arabia Escapes