The milliners are manic and the tailors tied up as the Dubai World Cup returns to the iconic Meydan racecourse this Saturday.
Last year Prince Bishop, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum and ridden by William Buick and, took the spoils on home turf for the Godolphin stable.
One of the biggest days on the UAE’s sporting calendar, the Dubai World Cup can be a slightly overwhelming experience for first-timers so Sport360 have enlisted the help of Dubai Eye 103.8 presenter Chris McHardy to offer five top tips for surviving at Meydan.
With 80,000 plus race goers flocking to Meydan you can imagine the logistical nightmare facing organisers come 10pm. Booking a Careem or Uber taxi to pick you up at a set location and time will not only save you the headache of queuing for hours but also ensure your are home at a reasonable hour. It is a school night after all.
Alternatively, if you’re down with the cool kids and plan on partying the night away with Janet Jackson at the post-racing concert then again make travel arrangements in advance. Your dancing feet will thank me later.
While Dubai World Cup night is as much about the vibrant social scene as it is the world-class racing, it’s well worth keeping the official racing handbook close to hand.
Not only will it win you brownie points among the true horse racing aficionados, but will also ensure you’re not left with that nagging feeling that you’re missing out come the start bell.
There is also no greater thrill than selecting a winner on the night, especially if that means getting one over friends or those who claim to be ‘in the know’.
This is a once-a-year chance to lose your inhibitions and go all out in the style stakes. The weirder and wackier the better. Two-time reigning Best Dressed Male, Marlon Weir, is the very epitome of that.
Those who put in the most effort and originality into their World Cup outfits will be rewarded handsomely. A Jaguar F-Type coupe for a weekend, a Longines watch and cash prices are all up for grabs in the Jaguar Style Stakes.
It pays to look cool on World Cup night.
Get there early. And no, that’s not just to avoid the heavy traffic on the journey in but, more importantly, it gives you a chance to sample the awe-inspiring Meydan Racecourse in all of its glory.
The mile-long grandstand, which opened in 2010, is the biggest anywhere in the world. It’s a thing of beauty although capturing all of it in a photo is nigh on impossible. The challenge has been set.
Getting there before the masses gives you the rare opportunity to embrace the calm before the storm, and of course scout for the perfect vantage point.
Gates open at noon with the first race, the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic, scheduled for 3:45pm GST.
I’m a firm believer in living in the moment, but such is the glitz, glamour, pomp and ceremony of the night you’d be foolish not to pocket a camera or fully-charged smartphone.
Whether it’s the horses battling for supremacy on the track or the fashionistas seeking your attention off it, the World Cup is an all-out attack on the senses. Making sure you document every bit of it is simply a must. If anything, it will help give your Instagram following a boost.
Chris McHardy is a Sports Presenter for Dubai Eye 103.8. He’ll be part of the team covering the Dubai World Cup live from Meydan Racecourse on Saturday. Their coverage gets underway from 4pm GST.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Purebred Arabian Handassa, trained by Francois Rohaut in Pau in the South West of France, is the horse everyone has to beat in this year’s edition of the Dubai Kahayla Classic, empowered by IPIC.
That is the word on the street and is a scenario his work rider Doric Binot, who has come over to Dubai with him from France, imagines every day when he goes out for a canter on the Meydan track.
“You always like to believe in the horse that you look after,” he explains. “But he is in great form and obviously won his race here in the beginning of the month. So we know he definitely likes the dirt.”
Originally apprenticed to Carlos Laffon-Parias in Chantilly, Binot used to ride as a Flat jockey before weight issues caught up with him and he switched to jump racing.
However, a heavy fall put an end to that career and it has now been nearly two years that he has worked for Francois Rohaut.
“We only have about 10 Purebred Arabians in our yard,” he continues. “The others are Thoroughbreds. In fact, last year, I came to Dubai with the filly Farmah, who is also owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.”
Sheikh Hamdan actually visited the quarantine stable on Monday and Binot was impressed: “It was quite amazing to meet him. He is really interested in the horse and it was just great to see him here.”
The owner-breeder has always had a great affinity with Purebred Arabian horses and nothing would please him more than a victory of six-year-old Handassa, whose sire Madjani lifted the event three consecutive times from 2005 to 2007.
By nature, they are not known to be easy rides and Binot confirms: “To ride a Purebred Arabian, you have to indulge them. They are much more sensitive and you constantly have to nurture them.
“It’s about finding the right balance of keeping them fresh, whilst coaxing them into doing a bit of serious work. You need to amuse them, keep them interested. I know this sounds strange, but in the morning you have to let them believe that they dominate.”
With Handassa, though, there is no great worry that he has to be coaxed and his work rider smiles when he says: “Handassa is one of the easier ones to ride, which by the way, is the reason that he is so exceptional.”
The jury appeared somewhat out after Wednesday’s draw for Saturday’s $10million Dubai World Cup, or perhaps certain connections were masking disappointment.
Runner-up in the world’s riches horse race last year, California Chome’s name was the 11th drawn from 12, leaving his trainer, Art Sherman, with very limited choice.
During the draw, an Emirates Airlines representative drew out each horse’s name before connections made their own pick of starting positions.
Sherman plumped for 11, leaving the widest draw of all, in 12, to Saudi Arabian challenger, Teletext.
However, Sherman seemed unfazed by what, on paper at least, appeared a bad draw.
He said: “If you have the right horse, an outside draw is good and we think we have the right horse. He normally races prominently and is pretty versatile.
“I had two draw options left and went for 11. Hopefully, it will not make that much difference. To tell you the truth, about seven or eight would have been ideal. When we look at the form, we might have to change our strategy a little bit. He has quite a bit of speed if a guy wants to use it.”
Special Fighter, winner of Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 over the same 2000m dirt course and distance on Super Saturday, will leave from stall five.
His trainer, Musabah Al Muhairi, said: “I wanted six as he won from there on Super Saturday. Five is fine though and we think he has a massive chance.”
Godolphin’s Frosted is in stall nine and his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, said: “We are happy with that; there is plenty of time until the first bend, so hopefully he can get a nice position.”
Keen Ice, who was the only horse to defeat Triple Crown champion American Pharaoh last year, was 10th horse out and Jerry Crawford-picked Stall 1.
Crawford said: “The thing that made it (choosing the first stall) attractive was that it was that, or the 11th, or the 12th.
“We have speed drawn to our immediate inside (Mshawish), so we should have room to manoeu- vre and navigate from there. We are going to be first time blinkers so I think that will make him a little keener, excuse the expression.”
Hong Kong’s Gun Pit was the first name drawn and trainer Caspar Fownes went for stall three, explaining: “We are delighted to have had first pick and, hopefully, he can run a big race from there.”
Following him out in the draw was Mshawish, another representing America and trained by Todd Pletcher. His connections opted for stall two and Pletcher said: “The inside at Meydan has looked a good place to be, so we have to be happy.
“Frankie Dettori rides and his first pick was two, so that worked out just fine. Hopefully, he can stalk the early pace and must have a good chance.”
Last year’s UAE Derby winner, the Mike de Kock-trained Mubtaa- hij, was the seventh name to emerge and the trainer’s on, Mathew, went for stall four.
He explained: “We are happy; we wanted a low draw as the inside has been the place to be at Meydan most of this season. He is as well as we can get him and hopefully primed for a big run.”