The Dubai World Cup: How it grew to become one of the world’s best racing events

26th edition of the Dubai World Cup will take place on March 26 with total prize money over $30.5 million

By Leslie Wilson Jr.

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Published: Mon 21 Feb 2022, 9:31 PM

Last updated: Thu 24 Feb 2022, 1:08 AM

Every last Saturday in the month of March the world’s sporting attention turns to Dubai, where the iconic Meydan Racecourse plays host to the Dubai World Cup, arguably one of the most prestigious and coveted races in the sport of horse racing.

While Australia’s Melbourne Cup ‘stops the nation’, the Dubai World Cup captivates a global audience.

Last year, horses from more than a dozen countries competed in nine top-class races, including six Group 1 contests, at Meydan Racecourse, in what is billed as the world’s most spectacular race day.

The feature race was the $12 (Dh44.08) million Dubai World Cup, which has been sponsored by Emirates Airline since 1996 and was won by American-trained Mystic River.


The Dubai Racing Club has appointed distribution and production company Racecourse Media Group (RMG), which has teamed up with leading networks to broadcast the event to the Americas, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Far East, Africa, Australasia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

If that’s not global, then what is.

The 26th edition of the Dubai World Cup will take place on Saturday, March 26, and it is set to be another incredible event with total prize money over $30.5 (Dh112.03) million, a $5 (Dh18.37) million increase from last year's event.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2022 running of the iconic race and some frequently asked questions about going racing at Meydan Racecourse.

How did the Dubai World Cup become one of the world’s most prestigious races?

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.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Subsequent runnings of the race, which currently boasts a staggering purse of $12 (Dh44.08) million, have been won by some of the greatest thoroughbred champions from around the world – horses bred in North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Argentina, Brazil, and Japan.

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