The racing world is dotted with “must-see” events that any true thoroughbred aficionado would love to tick off the ultimate bucket list. Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, the Melbourne Cup, Royal Ascot, the Cheltenham Festival … it’s a list that could run as long as the Straight Six at Flemington. One venue which deserves to be added is the stunning Meydan complex, home of the Dubai World Cup.
Horse racing in the United Arab Emirates dates back to just 1981, when the dusty old Camel Track hosted its first thoroughbred meeting as per the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai (and the owner of the Darley and Godolphin operations). The first Dubai World Cup was held in 1996 and received the best possible PR boost when American wonder horse Cigar, claimed the inaugural trophy. After 14 years at Nad Al Sheba, the meeting was moved to Meydan – the world’s largest integrated racing facility, with grandstand seating capacity for more than 60,000 nestling alongside the luxury Meydan Hotel.
The World’s Richest Raceday
Fast forward to 2017 to find the USD $10 million Dubai World Cup surpassed for the first time as the world’s richest race following the inaugural running of the USD $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Florida’s Gulfstream Park in January. But the Dubai World Cup race card still occupies the top spot, with USD $27.5 million up for grabs across the six Group 1s and three Group 2 races scheduled. Yet, there’s a strong link between the Pegasus and Dubai World Cups. And that’s the presence of Arrogate. Unknown a year ago, Arrogate burst onto the racing scene with a record-setting performance in the Grade I, $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga last August, winning by 13.5 lengths. He followed up that freakish performance victory in the USD $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November, then kept his winning streak intact with a 4.75-length victory in the Pegasus World Cup. The 4yo grey’s record stands at 7:6-0-1 with prize money of more than USD $11 million. He’s a $1.35 favourite (with William Hill) to complete a historic year, and only bad luck will stop him tonight.
Arrogate Unlikely to be Challenged
Outside of the favourite, only Gun Runner is priced under $10 ($9 with Paddy Power) and just four others are rated at better than $50. Mike De Kock’s Mubtaahij was second last year to California Chrome and, despite drawing the outside gate of 14, makes a logical choice to fill one of the places. Outside of the feature, our best on the card is in the USD $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic over 2000m on the turf. It’s the race with the smallest field of the night but the most quality. Postponed is the highest-rated in the field and won this race last year convincingly but comes into this after a second in the Dubai City Of Gold earlier this month. His $2.60 favouritism looks unders, so we’ll be taking the $4.20 (with Ladbrokes) on the well-travelled Highland Reel. He wasn’t at his best when fourth in this race 12 months ago, but had another remarkable globetrotting campaign in 2016 (including victory in the USD $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf) and there’s a strong likelihood of him getting an easy lead here for champion hoop Ryan Moore.