Thoroughbred horse racing is known for riches and opulence. In that respect,
it is difficult to top the Dubai World Cup, held every March in the Emirate of
Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The name “Dubai World Cup” can refer to the
entire night of stakes races held on that evening at Meydan Racecourse or to the
single race that culminates the evening with a stunning purse of $12 million.
Considering that many of the most famous
stakes horse races in the world have existed for decades and even centuries,
the Dubai World Cup had a lot of catching up to do in terms of capturing the
imagination of racing fans. After all, the race was only held for the first time
in 1996. But a combination of a big purse, an exotic setting, and outstanding
racing competition has allowed the race to become a must-see for all racing
Perhaps the best indicator of the race’s bona fides is the caliber of
competition in the race. Starting with the very first winner in 1996, Cigar, the
race has generally been won by horses with amazing racing records. That’s to be
expected considering the giant purses at stake, not just for the actual Dubai
World Cup race but also for all nine Group One and Group Two stakes races held
during this racing extravaganza.
In addition to the interest generated by the Thoroughbred greatness on
display, the race also garners superlative betting interest. The international
fields for the Dubai World Cup are generally so star-studded that prohibitive
favorites are rare. That means that online betting on the race, which must be
done off-site due to Dubai’s restrictions on wagering, allows for the
possibilities of big payoffs on small wagers.
The Dubai World Cup wouldn’t be in existence without the efforts of Sheikh
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Sheikh Mohammed, who is now the vice president
and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, parlayed an early interest in
horse racing into great success in the sport as an owner and breeder. As the
horses from his Godolphin Stables racked up major wins in Great Britain and then
eventually stretched out to international achievements, he began to think of
ways to bring a major horse racing event to his own backyard.
In 1992, the Dubai Racing Club was founded, and that same year, Nad Al Sheba
Racecourse was built. That impressive facility proved that it was able to hold a
large event, and so the first Dubai World Cup night was held in 1996. It
featured nine stakes races and was immediately labeled the richest night in
The event received an undoubted boost right off the bat by the participation
of the American champion Cigar. Cigar, as part of his amazing 13-race winning
streak, shipped to Dubai and captured the first Dubai World Cup race, which, at
the time, carried a purse of $4 million. It proved that the event could indeed
draw the best horses from all over the world to this unique location far away
from the traditional hotbeds of Thoroughbred racing.
Just a year later, there was concern over whether or not the event would be
held because of drenching rains in the Dubai area. But Sheikh Mohammed sensed
that a break in the action might permanently stall the momentum of his nascent
event. He ordered helicopters to fly over the track to dry it up quickly, and
the races were held just a few days after the originally scheduled date.
In 2010, Nad Al Sheba was rebuilt as Meydan Racecourse, which has been the
host site for the Dubai World Cup since that year. For the first five years, the
Dubai World Cup was held on a synthetic surface known as Tapeta. In 2015, partly
due to the concerns of top United States horses over the synthetic surfaces,
Meydan switched to a dirt course, and that has been the surface for the World
Cup since that time. The distance for the race is 2000 meters, or approximately
a mile and a quarter.
In 2017, the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida of the United
States was created and featured a purse of $12 million. It surpassed the Dubai
World Cup, which had risen to a $10 million purse, as the world’s richest race.
In 2018, it was announced that the purse of the Dubai race would rise to $12
million. (The Pegasus had risen to $16 million.)
However, participants must pay hefty sums to participate in the Pegasus World
Cup, which is not the case for the Dubai race. In addition, the winner’s share
of the Dubai World Cup, currently $7.2 million, is still higher than any other
race in the world.
Memorable Dubai World Cup Champions
As stated above, the dynamic performance of Cigar, ridden by jockey Jerry
Bailey and trained by Bill Mott, set the tone for the caliber of Dubai World Cup
winners. The following year, when the races were delayed by the rains, Bailey
was at it again aboard winner Singspiel. Singspiel’s win was also notable
because it put the Dubai World Cup title in the hands of the man who created the
race, as Sheikh Mohammed was the horse’s owner.
A year later, Silver Charm became the first horse to double up as a winner of
Triple Crown race and a Dubai World Cup Champion. Silver Charm had won the
1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and was denied the Triple Crown in a
heartbreaking loss in the Belmont Stakes. He came back in 1998 to add the Dubai
World Cup to his trophy case.
In 2004, Pleasantly Perfect, who had captured the Breeders’ Cup Classic just
a few months earlier, followed that up with a win in the Dubai World Cup. He was
back the next year to try to make it two in a row but was denied by Roses In
May. As a matter of fact, there still has not been a two-time Dubai World Cup
winner in the 23 years of its existence.
Electrocutionist, owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing, won the World
Cup in 2006, but in a tragic turn of events, died later that year due to a heart
attack. In 2008, Curlin, who won both the Preakness Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup
Classic a year earlier, handled the field in the Dubai World Cup.
In 2009, the last World Cup contested at Nad Al Sheba, the late-blooming Well
Armed, who did not race at age three, won the race by a record 14 lengths. And
in 2013, Animal Kingdom came to Dubai almost two years after his Kentucky Derby
win in 2011 for another huge victory.
Recent Dubai World Cup Winners
Silvestre de Sousa
The former turf racer won the World Cup at age seven as a 12-1 long shot
As an eight-year-old 14-1 shot, he beat a field that included defending champ Prince Bishop and American superstar California Chrome
The 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner atoned for his loss in the World Cup the previous season
With wins in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup and the Dubai World Cup, he bagged the two richest races in the world in a matter of months
He was previously known for his fractious behavior during the 2017 Kentucky Derby, but the Irish-bred horse atoned for that with a front-running romp in the World Cup
The Dubai World Cup Experience
The Dubai World Cup might be a single race, but the race is really just a
small part of some impressive festivities at the Meydan course every March.
After all, it is one of only nine huge stakes races held that evening. The other
stakes races on the schedule:
Dubai Kahayla Classic
Dubai Golden Shaheen
Dubai Sheema Classic
Dubai Gold Cup
Al Quoz Sprint
In addition to the racing, those who visit the United Arab Emirates for the
Dubai World Cup are treated to an incredible spectacle. The Meydan Course is not
just a race track. Included as part of the facility is a museum dedicated to the
history of horse racing, a selection of elegant restaurants, and a five-star
The racing is the centerpiece of the action, but there is also a festive
atmosphere that is embellished by excellent entertainment. It has become a
tradition at the Dubai World Cup for a massive firework display to follow the
action. A concert featuring some of the biggest acts in the music world also
thrills the fans in attendance at the Dubai World Cup.
How to Bet on the Dubai World Cup
In most horse races around the world, fans can take part in wagering
opportunities right at the track where the action takes place. This is not the
case with the Dubai World Cup. Traditional wagering is not allowed in Dubai,
meaning that fans at the event have to do their wagering elsewhere before the
There is a Pick 6 competition for the fans at the event, but it’s not the
kind of wagering that fans might have come to expect. In this day and age,
however, it’s easy to work around this. The ever-growing number of horse racing betting
sites is certainly available to those wishing to wager on this premier
Online betting on horses is extremely convenient for those who can’t quite
get to the track. In the case of the Dubai World Cup, it’s useful even if you
can get to the United Arab Emirates to watch. The popularity of the race makes
it a shoo-in to be included on most reputable betting sites.
We’ve put together a list of sites that are reliable and well-established in
the industry. They should offer excellent incentives to both first-time and
regular bettors, solid customer service, and a trustworthy system of deposits
Once you have chosen the site that hosts betting on the Dubai World Cup, it’s
just a matter of funding an account. Then you have to choose what kind of wager
you wish to make on the race. There are that will likely be available to you.
Straight bets are ones that involve a single horse either finishing first
(win), second (place), or third (show.) Exotic bets, on the other hand, involve
multiple horses. An exotic bet can be as simple as picking the first two horses
in the order of finish in the Dubai World Cup, known as an exacta, or it could
be as involved as picking the winner of six races in a row (Pick 6).
In terms of betting opportunities, the Dubai World Cup can be an exciting
race for gamblers because the field is usually stacked with an international
field. Each of the horses tends to be a champion in his own region, lured to
Dubai by the promise of the huge purses.
This means it might be difficult to choose a winner from all of the entrants
in the race. But if you can, you are likely to come away with odds that can make
even a straight bet a relatively lucrative one. The bottom line is that the
Dubai World Cup is one of those races where you can rack up a big payday for a
relatively small wager.
Dubai World Cup FAQ
Who is the top jockey in Dubai World Cup race history?
American Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey won the first two Dubai World Cups in 1996 and 1997. He then won back to back again in 2001-02. That gives him four titles overall, more than any other jockey in the history of the race.
Who is the top trainer in race history?
Saeed bin Suroor has rolled up an impressive eight training victories in the history of the Dubai World Cup, which is five more than anyone else. Six of those wins have come in conjunction with Godolphin Racing, which is owned by Dubai World Cup founder Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
What was the fastest winning time in the history of the Dubai World Cup?
Dubai Millennium won the Dubai World Cup in 1:59.50 (just under two minutes) back in 2000 when the race was still contested at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse.
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