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A Brief History Of Horse Racing In Dubai

Horse racing in Dubai has come a long way in its 41-year history. Back in 1981, the city held its very first thoroughbred race meeting on a track previously used for camel racing. There were three races in total, of various lengths. All organized under instructions from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

A recent phenomenon

That event laid the groundwork for racing in Dubai. But it was another 10 years before horse racing took a more structured form with the creation of the Dubai Racing Club in 1992. This coincided with the high-profile opening of the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse. Top jockeys of the time including Lester Piggott and Willie Carson were present for the inauguration. In 1993, the venue's first showpiece race, the Dubai International Jockeys' Challenge, drew riders from all over the world.

The Dubai World Cup

In 1996, growing interest and expertise in the sport led to the Dubai World Cup which has since grown to be one of the world's richest horse races with a prize fund of $12 million. The first winner was the American horse Cigar ridden by Jerry Bailey who enjoyed many years of success at the competition. In 2010, the event moved to the now iconic Meydan Racecourse.  With the ability to host 60,000 spectators, the arena has a huge capacity and is the largest of its kind in the world. Most recently, those huge crowds saw Country Grammar ridden by Frankie Dettori charge to victory in 2022 in the 25th year of the competition. 

Strict rules on gambling

Despite the popularity of horse racing in Dubai, gambling is generally prohibited. However, there are certain lottery-type bets allowed on selected days. Full details are covered in this article from If you are planning a trip to Dubai to attend a horse race or for any other reason, it is important to familiarise yourself with the local rules and customs before you travel. The United Arab Emirates strives to be more progressive and is open about its desire to become the world's leading tourist destination.

Growing popularity 

But it does not stop the Dubai World Cup from being one of the most enjoyable race experiences on the calendar, perhaps showing how popular the sport has become. The event attracts visitors from all over the world and is growing in prestige every year. One of the world's richest race days, it is an event that allows people to get dressed up, and indulge in an event with all the pomp and ceremony of royal ceremonies. Drawing the rich and famous to the stands, it has definitely become a 'must' to attend this competition, even managing to lure people away from the other attractions Dubai has to offer. 

And it's not just the Dubai World Cup on offer to tempt race enthusiasts; there are races held from October until April at Meydan and throughout the UAE at five different venues including Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. With the range of races and competition growing, we look forward to seeing what the future brings.

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