Horse racing in Dubai

We live in one the world's racing capitals but what do you actually know about the sport? Here's a quick guide to horse racing from <em>Time Out</em>.

You can’t bet on the horses here in Dubai – what’s the attraction for someone going to watch this?
The attraction is the competitive element of watching a live horse race. But pitting your skills of selecting a winning horse is a big part of it, and there are still two ways to do that. We have a competition called the Pick Six where you try to work out the winners of six races. It’s completely free to enter and we have cash prizes for those who pick four, five or all six of the winners. Then there are the tri-cast competitions where you win by choosing the first, second and third placed horses in two successive races.

So what should we be looking out for when picking a horse?
There’s a technical way of doing it that we call the form of the horse, which looks at their past performances and lines that up against the opposition. You also look at the weight a horse is carrying according to its handicapping. But you can also go with your favourite jockeys – Frankie Dettori, Richard Mullen – or a specific trainer. Or just go the ladies way, I like grey horses or that jockey is wearing pretty colours…

Should we be banking on consistently good jockeys or consistently good horses?
There’s a saying good horses make good jockeys, but a combination of the two is obviously better when trying to find a winner.

Are there any good Emirati jockeys?
There’s a couple of Emirati jockeys, but look out for Ahmed Ajtebi, an apprentice, he’s only six wins from losing that apprentice status.

When you start off as a jockey you’re inexperienced, so to counter that lack of experience, they’re allowed a weight claim. Apprentices start off with a four and a half kilo weight claim in this country. So you get the advantage of the lesser weight but the disadvantage of less experience. As jockeys become more experienced they pass milestones, dropping their claim slowly to none. When you get to nil you’re a fully fledged jockey. This is the sort of thing you need to be looking out for when picking a horse.

What’s the handicap? How does that work?
The theory behind a handicap is for horses of various abilities to carry weights to bring their levels of ability together to produce a dead heat, a multi-horse dead heat. It’s never going to be perfect, there are different levels of ability and fitness between horses, but that’s the idea of handicap – to give the horses a better chance to be equal.

Why is the sport so popular out here?
It falls back to its popularity with the ruling family. They’re so well placed worldwide in racing and they’ve supported racing here in Dubai for a long, long time. There’s a lot of people in the general populace who also get a lot from the racing. At the end of the day, it’s free entertainment.

Who’s Curlin? He seems famous…
Curlin won the most recent Dubai World Cup [last year]. He was trained by Steve Asmussen, who is a prominent trainer, but Curlin will be retiring this year to stud.

What’s the most bizarre name for a horse you’ve come across?
There was a horse racing on the American circuit called Ahhhh for a while. And Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti. That was a strange one.

Terry’s Tips

The horses to bank on and their recent results…

Blues Ballad (GB)
Finished first on November 6
(Jockey: Richard Mullen)

Mizzna (FR)
‘A purebred Arabian horse that won the Dubai Kahayla Classic at the Dubai World Cup, she’s been racing well at Abu Dhabi this year and looks to be on her way to another successful year’
Finished first on November 16
(Tadhg O’Shea)

Night of Dance (FR)
Finished first on November 8 & 13
(Keagan Latham)

Quorum (GER)

‘It’ll be interesting to see how this horse rides later in the year when things get tougher’
Finished first on November 13
(Wayne Smith)

Getting raceside

Raceday currently falls every Thursday at the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse during the Winter Racing challenge. Access to the public enclosure is completely free and seating in the Millenium and Maktoum grandstands is also free of charge. Dubai Racing Club offers complimentary shuttle services to and from the ground, leaving Arabian Ranches, Wafi, Dubai Marina and Emirates Towers at 6pm on raceday and leaving the ground for drop off at 10pm. Bars and restaurants are available at the venue.

Call 04 327 077 for enquiries or see

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