Dubai World Cup: Excellence in International Racing
It can never be underestimated the impact the inaugural running of the G1 Dubai World Cup had on international racing over two decades ago.
Cigar beating Soul Of The Matter at Nad Al Sheba in 1996 created story lines writers could normally only dream about. But that was only the half of it.
The concept of staging a thoroughbred horse race of global significance that would bring together the best from Europe, the United States, the Middle East and beyond — and for a record prize money pot of $10m — was devised by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, the Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE.
That vision guaranteed Dubai racing a place alongside established jurisdictions steeped in the history and development of the modern thoroughbred. The fledgling Dubai Racing Club, established in 1992, had much ground to make up — which it did, of course, in the most impressive style.
It is only one generation ago that small strings of horses could be seen crossing Sheikh Zayed Road, returning from their daily work routine which often took place on dusty camel tracks.
How different it is today, with the fabulous, state of the art Meydan Racecourse evolving from happy memories of Nad Al Sheba, the venue for the first 14 runnings of the Dubai World Cup. Dirt and Turf racetracks, plus adjacent training grounds, provide excellent facilities at every level.
But back to that very first edition of the race in 1996. Allen Paulson, the American aerospace tycoon, owned the world’s biggest headline horse, Cigar, who had become a sporting identity transcending the normal lines of media coverage in the United States.
With great charm and business acumen, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed gave Paulson sufficient confidence and encouragement to ship his superstar racehorse to the Middle East for the race.
But Paulson was not the only big American name on the inaugural owners’ invitation sheet. Composer and singer Burt Bacharach decided to bring Soul Of The Matter and thus the scene was set for the world’s richest ever horse race, contested in the Middle East, fittingly where it all began for the thoroughbred that we know and appreciate today.
Cigar fought tenaciously to hold off Soul Of The Matter to become the first winner of the World Cup, heading a Roll of Honour that includes Silver Charm, Well Armed (the last winner at Nad Al Sheba), as well as Darley stallion greats, Dubai Millennium, Singspiel and Street Cry.
The Dubai World Cup has very quickly established its own rich tradition and reputation — for excellence in world racing.