Dubai World Cup: Pinnacle of the UAE racing calendar

UAE having emerged as a major racing destination following the formation of the Dubai Racing Club in 1992


By Leslie Wilson

Published: Wed 23 Feb 2022, 1:07 AM

The Dubai World Cup was an ambitious project that was conceptualised by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in the early 1990s.

Sheikh Mohammed’s vision was to create the definite horse race that would act as a world championship, with the winner being crowned the best horse in the world. He planned to attract the best horses in the world to come to Dubai to compete for prestige, bragging rights, and a rich purse.

With the UAE having emerged as a major racing destination following the formation of the Dubai Racing Club in 1992, the timing was perfect for the launch of the International Jockeys Challenge which would pave the way for the inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup in 1996.

In the 1990s, Dubai had begun to diversify on all fronts, with ambitious real estate projects, a flourishing financial sector, luxury tourism, and sport that included the Dubai Desert Classic, Dubai Tennis Championships, Dubai Rugby 7s, and World Powerboat Racing Championships.

But it was horse racing that would take it to another level.

The inaugural running of the race, which was held with over 60,000 racegoers in attendance, both international and from the UAE, was won thrillingly by American raider Cigar, the world’s best horse at the time, who cemented his place in racing history by winning the race.

The racing world was enthralled as the Dubai World Cup had been given the perfect lift-off any new sporting event could ever hope for. 

Tell me more about the World Cup

Regarded as the pinnacle of the UAE racing calendar, the hugely anticipated World Cup meeting is held annually on the last Saturday of March at the acclaimed Meydan Racecourse.

The excitement starts to build early, with the precursor to the event, the Dubai World Cup Carnival, enticing its fair share of stunning animals, talented riders and animated spectators across the nine-race meetings held weekly until March 5 (otherwise known as Super Saturday).

A number of new races have been added to the Carnival race calendar for 2022, including a $300,000 (Dh1,101,930) Ras Al Khor race set over 1,400m, which will take place on March 5.


Well, there's a reason why the $30.5 (Dh112.03) million meeting is one of the most eagerly anticipated sporting and social weekends in the city. Not only is this the world's richest day of horseracing, the calibre of riders and horses that take to the track in the nine high-class races (each of which will this year be run for at least $1million), is nothing short of exceptional.

The evening culminates in the Dubai World Cup 1 race, which was won last year by Mystic River, ridden by Luis Saez, and boasts the highest purse of the night at $12 (Dh44.03) million. In short, even those with just a passing interest in the equine will be entranced.

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