The Dubai World Cup Tour 2016: What’s the history of the world’s richest horse race?

Not for no reason is the Dubai World Cup known as ‘The World’s Richest Horse Race.’ On that day in the Arabian sunshine, some six Group 1 and three Group 2 events will take place, and not a penny shy of AU$23 million will be won across this feast of equine excellence.

However, even the most extravagant of sporting occasions have their beginnings in more humble surroundings. English soccer’s FA Cup – today watched by half a billion viewers in more than 120 countries, according to BBC Sport – began life as an amateur, rag-tag affair way back in 1872. Just 2,000 people turned up to watch a chaotic, lawless game played out on a cricket pitch – a far cry from the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium. So where does the Dubai World Cup find its origins?

Dobbins in Dubai

Though horseracing in Dubai does not have a history as long and illustrious as in other countries, it still stretches back to a time when the emirate did not have the world’s tallest building (the imperious Burj Khalifa) or the ‘Eighth Wonder Of The World’ (The Palm Jumeirah). The first official thoroughbred horse race took place in 1981, along the old, creaking Camel Track. In fact, three races were run on that October day – a sprint, a mile, and a mile and a half, according to the event’s official website.

Even the most extravagant of sporting occasions have their beginnings in more humble surroundings.

Just over a decade later, in early 1992, the Dubai Racing Club was formed. With it came the opening of the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, but the growth of horseracing in Dubai still had a sizeable inhibition – the number of horses allowed to be shipped in and out of the United Arab Emirates was strictly limited. Undeterred, the Dubai Racing Club invited a selection of the world’s best jockeys for a meet, named the International Jockey’s Challenge.

A champion occasion

The competition was a roaring success, and the event was repeated in 1996 – as the Dubai World Cup. The world sat up and took notice, with the inaugural race won by American champion, Cigar.

The race continued at the Nad Al Sheba up until 2009, when, fittingly another American horse took the crown. Well Armed won by a commanding 14 lengths, a distance that has yet to be beaten in the race’s relatively short history. The Dubai World Cup then moved home to the futuristic Meydan Racecourse, where it remains to this day.

We at Motive Travel are heading out to the Dubai World Cup next March, and we’d love like-minded racing fans to come with us. Here’s a taster of what’s to come – this is what we put together for our 2015 event. Please get in touch with us today if you’d like to know more.

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