Behind the scenes at the Dubai World Cup

We spoke to the key players behind the huge annual event

The Dubai World Cup is one of the biggest sporting and social events in the calendar. Benita Adesuyan went behind the scenes at Meydan to meet three of the event’s masterminds.

The world best jockeys, horses and trainers will be converging on the Meydan Grandstand on Saturday March 29. The Dubai World Cup (DWC) marks the climax of the horseracing calendar, not just in Dubai but globally. It’s also the richest horserace in the world, with a total prize money of over Dhs99 million for nine races. DWC is a glittering social occasion, and this year pop superstar J-Lo will be entertaining the well-dressed crowds, making this an event not to be missed. But events like this don’t just happen overnight. Time Out gets a sneak peek at the preparations behind this grand day.

Antony Treston
General Manager, Meydan Hotel
First Dubai World Cup
How do you prepare for the DWC?
The whole complex was built for this event and it’s the highlight of the year for the hotel and for Dubai. We start planning for the World Cup before Christmas. We have interns from all over the world who are trained up and work here in the hotel and the grandstand – they’re the core of the staffing.

What’s new this year?
We are using the Lower Track Terrace. The area will be for those who want to enjoy the whole day of racing and entertainment.

Are you looking forward to it?
Absolutely. It’s my first World Cup. I’ve been here for eight months, and it’s been this big thing in the air, so I’m looking forward to actually experiencing it. It’s such an important day, and it’ll be interesting to look back on it and see how we can move it forward for next year. We’ll start at 7am and still be working at 2am, but we’re all geared up for it. Abu Dhabi has the Formula One and we have the World Cup. We want people to say it’s the best yet.

What will your role be on the day?
I’ll be here about 8am, making sure the staff are all in position and overseeing the security. We have a great team, and I hope I’ll be greeting people and making sure everyone is having the time of their lives.

Where is the best vantage point in the hotel?
The Millennium Lounge Terrace. From here you can see all the races, on grass and on the all-weather track, and the atmosphere is great.

Martin Bunch
General Manager of Food & BeverageS
Fifth World Cup
How do you prepare for the DWC?
We are a seasonal business so we source
staff from a variety of countries, such as Malaysia, Nepal and Sri Lanka. But when we get to the World Cup, there are still not enough people, so we draw on staff from our other properties. There is a lot of pressure, but we wouldn’t do this job unless we thrived on it. I love the build-up and all the buzz – and the planning for next year will start the week after the World Cup.

What do you most look forward to?
This event is what we’re built for – it’s the pinnacle of horseracing events all over the world, it’s a whole show. Yes, it’s about thoroughbred horses, but it’s also a celebration of Dubai and it’s a real experience.

What food and drink is popular at the World Cup?
The beauty of DWC in Dubai is that it’s fully international – so where Wimbledon has strawberries and cream, and Ascot has tea, here our guests arrive from 2pm so we start with afternoon tea and strawberries, and then in the food courts and general areas we offer everything from cups of tea and chicken shawarma to salmon platters and glasses of chilled bubbly.

What’s new in catering?
We have new dining experiences in the Meydan Room and the first-class lounge, which is a prime location for the whole racing experience. There is indoor and outdoor space, and it’s a fantastic location for viewing the concert, too.

You’ve worked on five World Cup’s, which has been the most memorable?
The first one – just the magnificence and size of the event, and what we managed to achieve. I joined one month before the very first World Cup. The day we completed the preparations, the complex opened its doors for the event – we were against the clock! We’ve progressed year on year, and confirming J-Lo as a headline act is a good representation of the quality the event now.

What will you be doing on the day?
My role will be to support the team. 95 per cent of my job is already done by the big day. I know we’re good to go. This is our baby; we spend the whole year getting ready, and then I hand it over to the team to look after. I always make sure that on the last race of the night I get down to the parade ring to watch it – all that emotion and energy, you can feel it though your whole body. It’s fantastic.

Javier Barajas
Turf Course Superintendent
Fifth Dubai World Cup
What kind of preparation takes place on the track ahead of the event?
The grass on the race track has to be 14cm long. We cut it down frequently to encourage growth. It’s like hair – you trim the split ends to make it stronger and longer. At that length, the grass stands up; if it’s any taller it will flatten down too much, and if it’s too short it gets yellow.

What kind of grass do you use?
We have two types of grass on the turf: Bermuda and Rye. Bermuda grows in the summer and loves the heat, so before the World Cup we cut the grass as much as three times a week, and in the winter it goes dormant, so we over-seed it with Rye, which is a winter grass. Bermuda has a lot of roots – as deep as 30cm – so it helps to support the horses when they run. The Rye looks good and it gives them some cushioning.

There are two types of track at Meydan. What’s the difference?
We have a grass and a synthetic track. In terms of maintenance, the synthetic track still requires tending to, because when the track is too warm the horses run slower. At the World Cup our first synthetic race is at 4.30pm, when it will still be warm, so we use floatation tyres to tighten up the track.

Do you check tracks during the races?
We double-check the grass to see if it needs watering prior to the event, but by World Cup day we’re set. We start getting the turf ready a year in advance. In October and November we’re seeding it for winter racing so it’s a year-long process. We have 150,000 square metres of grass, which has to be uniform. I take pride in the track and I walk its length every day.

What part of the event do you look forward to?
For the races to be over! There’s a lot of adrenaline and you want it to be perfect. I can take a deep breath when it’s over.
The Dubai World Cup, Saturday March 29. Dhs25 for general admission, hospitality packages available. Meydan Grandstand, Nad Al Sheba, www.dubairacingclub.com (04 327 2110).

The CUP by Numbers

80,000 guests are expected at the Meydan racetrack and grandstand

284 rooms at the Meydan Hotel, all fully booked

72 grandstand hospitality suites

9,700 kilograms of grass seeds are planted

150,000 square metres of grass track

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