Not only is the Dubai World Cup the biggest event on the global horse-racing calendar (we’re pretty sure that this has something to do with the US$10,000,000 cash prize), but it’s also a key date in every self-respecting UAE socialite’s diary – race day, to put it mildly, is one heck of a party.
Hats and high jinks aside, the hullabaloo surrounding the Meydan races has much to do with the region’s proud equine tradition. After all, it was the Arabs who made horse racing what it is today, since they bred the Arabian horse – the bloodline of which is found in almost every modern breed of riding horse.
This year will be the second time the magnificent Meydan complex plays host to the Dubai World Cup. Not only will race day on March 26 feature a full day of racing, the world’s top horses and jockeys, but the party will continue well into the night with a series of concerts. Last year featured performances from Sir Elton John and Santana, and organisers are promising more big-name acts this time round, though they’re keeping tight-lipped as to who’ll be coming. Keep an eye on Time Out for the latest news.
Time Out takes a few insider tips from Meydan trainer Erwan Charpy.
How long have you been training race horses here in Dubai?
I’ve been here for 16 years now – way before Meydan [opened]. I was working at Nad Al Sheeba before, but once Meydan was up and running, all the stables at Nad Al Sheeba came under Meydan management.
How does horse racing in the UAE compare with elsewhere in the world?
One of the biggest differences here is we have a short season, so you work within a small window, which means there’s a lot more pressure compared with other countries where the [season] runs more or less all year round. It’s unique here because the season is from November to the end of March. That’s what puts pressure on everyone – and on the horses – you have a whole year’s work in five months.
Who are the jockeys to watch this year?
I would say, well, Frankie [Dettori] is always a favourite over here, and Christophe Soumillon is doing very well – he’s a Belgian rider who’s been incredibly successful this year. But while good jockeys give good races, it’s all about the horses. The final field is not definite now, but I think Mick de Kock’s horses will be interesting to see.
Which races do you think will be the most exciting?
The Dubai Duty Free, year after year has been one of the best races of the night. That has always been a very competitive race. The Duty Free [nine furlongs] and the Sheema Classic [1,400m] are both on the turf and they have always been very competitive.
Since the Dubai World Cup is as much about fun in the stands as it is about the equine feats on the track, there are a slew of restaurants and bars to keep guests well-fed and well-oiled. The majority of spectators will be rubbing shoulders and comparing hats in the Apron Views, home to the Bubble Lounge, which serves up everyone’s favourite fizzy drink (no, not Fanta) and will be where the Jaguar Style Stakes take place (awards for best-dressed couple, best dressed, and best hat – best dressed wins a Jag for a year). There will be a variety of food and beverage outlets at the back of the Apron in the purpose-built area inside, offering spectators respite from the sun and a chance to have a dance to the sounds of the in-house DJ. Those wanting to concentrate on the racing rather than the rabble-rousing can pay for premium seating, which includes selected house beverages, afternoon tea and assorted nibbles.
Entry to the Apron Views costs Dhs350; premium seating costs Dhs1,300. See www.dubaiworldcup.com for details.
Dressing for a day at the races
Half the fun of the races is dressing up smart to look the part: gents don dapper suits, while the ladies go all out on hats and fascinators. Time Out offers some helpful fashion hints.
Dubai’s not a cheap place by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a number of places in the old part of town where you can get a fine suit tailored relatively cheap. Kachins in Bur Dubai (first right before Astoria Hotel car park; 04 352 1246) is an old Time Out favourite and not without good reason – this large, well-appointed store provides customers with tea and a comfy seat, as well as a vast array of fabrics and styles. The tailors usually insist on two fittings, but if you want to get your suit ready for the races, you might only have time for one. Though costs vary, expect to pay around Dhs1,400 for a suit and Dhs170 for shirts (both prices include fabric). Meanwhile, Leonard Logsdail in Al Quoz (call Simon Parton on 050 600 3224) has been building a reputation for itself with snappily tailored suits and trendy networking events. While the price of suits is very much fabric driven, expect to pay from Dhs4,000 upwards. Right on the other end of the price spectrum, Tom Ford in the The Dubai Mall offers a ‘Made to Order’ and a ‘Made to Measure’ service, allowing clients to choose from different ‘base cuts’. The service affords a generous choice of fabric swatches and you can also choose your own embroidered monograms, collar style and cuffs. It’ll cost you though – suits start at around Dhs13,000, with an additional 20 per cent fee for the ‘Made to Measure service.’
Hats and fascinators
Back in the day, it was considered proper etiquette to wear a hat outside the house lest you be confused for a grubby poor person (the horror!). Now, however, hats are simply fashion accessories, and never more so than at the races. From Ascot to the Kentucky Derby, ladies go to great lengths to ensure their headgear will set them apart from the crowd. The Designer’s Club (04 324 0028) in Wafi sells a nice array of flamboyant feathery numbers, with prices ranging from Dhs1,000 to around Dhs2,500. A cheaper Wafi option is Oasis Fashion (04 324 9074), which sells hats and fascinators featuring all manner of feathery, frilly and flowery appendages. Hats are also made to order (allow a couple of days). Prices range from Dhs175 to Dhs950. Lastly, Louise Harrison Couture Collection in Shop 112 in Madinat Jumeirah features a range of affordable (Dhs600-850) hats and fascinators that have featured prominently at Dubai World Cup and garnered a fair share of critical acclaim.