Dubai is a city not used to saying ‘no’. This unalloyed sense of showmanship and grandeur has driven the growth of this Middle Eastern metropolis from humble roots in the middle of the 20th century.
A negative outlook would not have allowed the world’s tallest building in the Burj Khalifa to be conceived or indeed the richest horse race, until finally usurped by January’s Pegasus Cup, the Dubai World Cup.
This enterprising spirit ensured the gloomy skies and sodden turf that greeted race goers morning was never going to stop the 22nd running. To have done so would have gone against Dubai’s ethos.
For good or bad, an attitude of ‘the show must go on’ is applied within the limits of acceptable risks. A repeat of the postponement from two decades ago upon a truly-apocalyptic downpour was not going to happen, no matter the doom-mongering.
Horses had been kept off on wet mornings in the build-up to protect a surface which was judged as ‘yielding’ on race day.
For dirt to be unusable, a monsoon was required – something which simply didn’t occur. The Roads and Transport Authority also issued an alert on Twitter to expect delays.
The committed souls who braved heavy rain to arrive early at midday were greeted by umbrellas at the information desk as they headed in. This was just a hint at the all encompassing provisions applied by organisers, Dubai Racing Club.
Numbers were down at that stage compared to previous years, though the epic reception granted to the competitors as Doug Watson’s Second Summer took the Godolphin Mile when the action got underway at 15:45 proved that damp punters had no desire to miss out.
Not even the return of the inclement weather as the horses were moved into position for the Al Quoz Sprint around 17:30 could call a halt to the celebratory proceedings.
The Meydan Style Stakes was the only partial victim, a “very simple affair” inside the hastily-rearranged location of Concourse C instead providing the venue for the annual celebration of extravagant suits and fascinators.
The Dubai World Cup is one of the landmark events on the nation’s calendar. The love for horse racing by the city’s ruling Al Maktoum family has imbued the showpiece with a special passion.
Yet it is incorrect to think this comes at all costs.
The iconic image of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, bravely deciding to postpone the 1997 running of the World Cup by drawing a hand across his throat evidences this.
Puddles of water, not present last night, pockmarked a surface which required the help of UAE Air Force helicopters to dry in time to be used five days later.
With this painful memory in mind, provisions had been made to ensure fans of the pastime who had travelled from across the globe were not to be disappointed.
Come heavy rain or occasional shine, it became apparent upon entry that it takes something special to derail both the World Cup and the proud city that hosts it.
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