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Does the Dubai World Cup lack prestige of other leading races?
(6 December 2020)

 

The Dubai World Cup is becoming one of the most prominent horse races in the world. Beginning in 1996, the event has become a signature of the flat racing season. The leading trainers from the United States and the United Arab Emirates gather to compete for the crown.

No team and trainer has been more successful than the tandem of Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin. Bin Suroor has claimed nine victories, while the Godolphin group have eight to their name, highlighting the success of the tandem pairing. The prize money on offer for the race is the most lucrative in the world. The purse was up to $12m as of 2019, with the winning party taking up to $7.2m. Thousands of spectators watch the event inside Meydan Racecourse, which has itself allowed the area around the site to enjoy a massive economic boost due to the amount of foot traffic.

Due to the lucrative prizes on offer, it should attract the leading names and contenders from across the flat racing hierarchy. However, that has not always been the case. The event surrounding the Dubai World Cup – known as Dubai World Cup Night has featured competitors from around the globe, notably the king of flat racing training in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Aidan O’Brien. The Irishman is yet to win the Dubai World Cup, although he has not taken his leading charges to compete at Meydan.

It’s an issue that has been rife for leading trainers that do not have Godolphin horses. It does lack an element of prestige and for trainers in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States there is the concern that it could not be worth the journey to Dubai. Moving their respective operations to areas surrounding Meydan will be a costly measure and given that the event is so close to the start of the flat racing season in their respective countries – it’s arguable that it’s not worth the gamble.

The dominance of Bin Suroor in the event is another reason why the elite horses are not prone to enter the Meydan Racecourse for the World Cup, despite the prize money on offer. It is no surprise to see Bin Suroor’s latest charge Benbatl be considered the leading contender in the William Hill odds for the 2021 Dubai World Cup. He won two races at Meydan last season, although on his trip to England at Newmarket in the defence of his Shadwell Joel Stakes crown against the cream of the UK and Irish racing crop, Benbatl finished third behind Kameko and Regal Reality.

Whereas Benbatl has been dominant overseas, his form has been indifferent in the UK and Ireland. The difference in the ground plays a large part in success or failure, which is why American bred and trained horses California Chrome and Arrogate are the only competitors to have disrupted the winning run of Bin Suroor over the last six years. American horses also race on dirt tracks, which is why Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher among others are more inclined to send their leading charges to compete. In the UK and Ireland.

O’Brien along with the UK and Irish trainers are beginning to adapt their styles to compete abroad. However, unless success at the top events begins to follow they’re unlikely to send out their top horses across the world. It robs viewers of seeing the best horses from across the globe compete against one another and prevents the Dubai World Cup from matching the prestige of other leading events, despite the significant purse available.

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