Despite Dubai’s fast cars and 12-lane highways,
the Arabic passion for all things horse related is alive and well, so it should
be no surprise that the highlight of the city’s horse racing calendar – the Dubai World Cup – is also the world’s
most expensive race.
A prize of $10 million awaits the winner of the final
race on 30 March, making it the most lucrative 10 furlongs (2,000m) in the
world. First held at the now-disused Nad Al Sheba racecourse 18 years ago, the
races were moved in 2010 to the new Meydan Grandstand, where the
horses now run on tapeta (all weather turf) instead of dirt. With more than 270
applications this year, the racing club is currently narrowing down the field
to the final 16; those in the know are watching Royal Delta and Monterosso as
The Dubai World Cup is also an annual highlight
of the city’s spring social season, a Middle Eastern version of Britain’s Royal Ascot where it is as much about the
hats as it is the horses. Thanks to the impressive best-dressed competitions
for men, woman and couples, the style stakes are always high with locals
planning their outfits months in advance.
While betting is illegal in the United Arab
Emirates, several of the city’s more established bars, such as the Irish Village, set up pop-up
versions in the stadium, and a variety of VIP/Champagne lounges spring up
overnight for those lucky enough to be offered corporate hospitality. Although the
post-race entertainment is still a secret, past performers have included Elton
John and Sting.
General admission, which offers views of the
races, access to the pubs, restaurants and style competitions, is 350 dirhams,
while a package including a four-course meal and unlimited house drinks costs 450
dirhams. The event is a sell-out every
year, so book tickets well
is the Dubai Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes the hotel review blog sogoodtogetoutofthecity.wordpress.com.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the prize amount as $1 million. This has now been corrected.