Meydan Racecourse ushers in a new era on Thursday with the opening of its newly-installed dirt track for the first meeting of its 2014/15 season.
A racecourse trial was held at the new track on Tuesday, with horses galloping over 1,400m and 1,600m under race conditions.
The dirt replaces the Tapeta which was laid down in January 2010 but has been replaced as the synthetic surface was deemed too temperamental in hot weather.
Dubai Racing Club executive director for racing Frank Gabriel said: “We were very pleased with the trials. The feedback from trainers and jockeys has been positive and we are excited about the new season.
— Dubai Racing Club (@DRC_Meydan) November 6, 2014
“This is an important season for us as we will stage the 20th running of the Dubai World Cup and we look forward to welcoming top international horses to compete on the surface during the World Cup Carnival and on World Cup day.”
There are 19 racedays before the season-ending World Cup day with the first today. The highlight of the six-race card is the Dh125,000 1900m Emirates Airline Handicap, for which eight have been declared, including the Doug Watson duo of Storm Belt and Henry Clay.
The action then moves on to Al Ain on Friday and they too are racing on a new dirt surface for the first time.
The highlight of their six-race card is a 1,400m Purebred Arabian conditions event which has attracted a select field of six.
The weights are headed by RB Smokin Rich, representing the combination of Champion Trainer Ernst Oertel and Champion Jockey Tadhg O’ Shea.
The Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Zaffaan receives weight from his five rivals but did win on dirt at Sharjah last year and could be the main danger to RB Smokin Rich.
Germany’s Protectionist won Australia’s biggest race the Melbourne Cup yesterday, but the event was marred by the deaths of two horses, including Japanese favourite Admire Rakti who came last.
Protectionist, beautifully ridden by English jockey Ryan Moore, beat England’s Red Cadeaux by four lengths, with New Zealand’s Who Shot Thebarman another half-length away in third.
Goldolphin’s Willing Foe came home in fifth with Cavalryman unable to race due to a swollen leg.
There was sadness in the aftermath as Admire Rakti collapsed and died in his stall upon returning from the track and later it was confirmed that another runner Araldo was put down after injuring himself when spooked by a flag being waved in the crowd.
“Our vets are on hand and the horse will undergo an autopsy,” chief race steward Terry Bailey said of Admire Rakti. “Obviously we’ll have to await those results to find out the cause of the death.”
Seventh-placed Araldo kicked out at a fence when returning to the mounting yard and injured a hind leg. Racing Victoria’s head of veterinary and equine welfare Brian Stewart said the horse fractured a unrepairable pastern bone.
The deaths shocked Flemington following Protectionist’s outstanding victory to become the sixth internationally-trained winner of Australia’s iconic race.
The Japanese topweight in the race had been well supported after a storming victory in the Caulfield Cup last month, and was up with the lead for most of the 3,200- metre (two mile) event. But as the seven-year-old galloper rounded the final bend he was noticeably under pressure.
Jockey Zac Purton furiously tried to maintain his position, only to drop back sharply through the field to finish 25 lengths behind the second-last horse.
Moore skilfully manoeuvred Protectionist into the clear about 200 metres from home and the five-year-old charged to the line for an easy victory in the 104th Melbourne Cup.
“He’s won very easily, a very good horse,” said a delighted Moore. “Obviously, it’s very special to win.”
Owner Andreas Wohler was also jubilant. “We’ve had great success all over the world but that’s the biggest of all,” he said.
He (Moore) was so patient. When he came around the last bend I said he just needs to have the right gap and he found it… Ryan is a superstar.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s a moment you won’t forget in your life. It’s a big achievement from our team.”
Purton said he was “just shattered” by the fate of Admire Rakti.
“He gave me such a great thrill there at Caulfield. They don’t deserve this,” he said.
“The whole way through the run I thought I’d win. I didn’t think they’d beat me from where I was,” Purton said.
But with 800 metres to go the horse was not responding and Purton began worrying that all was not well.
“I didn’t know it was as bad as it was,” he added.
It is the second consecutive year in which there was tragedy in the Melbourne Cup.
French mare Verema was put down after snapping a cannon bone in 2013.
The first race of the milestone 20th Dubai World Cup anniversary season gets underway on Thursday November 6 under the sponsorship of long time Meydan pillar partner, Emirates.
Emirates has been associated with the Dubai World Cup since the race was inaugurated in 1996, and the airline traditionally marks the opening meeting of the Meydan season by sponsoring the first card at the iconic track.
Emirates, a well-known supporter of horse racing in the UAE and abroad, also sponsors Super Saturday on March 7, 2015 and will be back at the track for the 20th running of the 10 Million USD Dubai World Cup on Saturday March 28, 2015.
The new dirt track at Meydan will be used for the first time, with all 6 of Thursday’s Thoroughbred races taking place on the recently-installed surface. The meeting is highlighted by two Emirates Airline Handicaps, both worth Dh120,000.
The first is a benchmark 95 contest over 1400m while the second is a benchmark 100 race and run over 1900m. “Emirates has a long and successful history of supporting horseracing which goes back over 20 years. We are the proud partner of the internationally renowned Godolphin Stable – the Maktoum family's private horseracing stable, which has produced some of the world’s highest calibre horses and jockeys.
We sponsor various races across the globe including the Melbourne Cup, The Emirates Singapore Derby and of course the Dubai World Cup,” said Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations.
“Supporting events, such as the Dubai World Cup, is very important to us as it helps to promote Dubai as a premier sporting, business and tourism destination. We have no doubt that the success of previous years will be repeated as we head into another exciting Meydan racing season,” Sheikh Majid Al Mualla added.
Chairman of the Meydan Racing Committee, Malih Al Basti said: “The 20th season of the Dubai World Cup is a significant event, not only for the Meydan Group and Dubai Racing Club, but also for Dubai as a whole and the wider racing world. Emirates has been a partner of the Dubai World Cup since the 1996 beginnings of this famous race and it is with great pleasure that we welcome the airline back to our track for the start of this landmark season, 20 years later, we are very proud of our connection with this iconic Dubai brand and look forward to working with Emirates during our special anniversary season.”
Since the first flight took to the air in 1985, Emirates has become one of the fastest growing international airlines in the world based in Dubai, it operates a young, state-of-the-art fleet and has earned a reputation for innovation and top quality service, winning more than 500 international awards for excellence across its business operations.
Admission is free to the public areas of Meydan Racecourse, gates open at 5pm and the first race starts at 6:45pm.
For further details please contact: +971 4327 2110 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter via @DRC_Meydan or @DWC_Meydan or like Dubai Racing Club or Dubai World Cup on Facebook pages for behind-the-scenes news and pictures.