Close your eyes. Listen. That’s the clink of champagne glasses that you can hear, along with braying laughter and the exchange of copious compliments about hats, frocks and feathered fascinators. In the background, you can just make out the thunderous sound of galloping hooves, furious heckling and ‘Pick 7’ papers being shaken in the air.
And why are you hearing such sounds? Why, because you’ve arrived at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse on March 28 and are thoroughly enjoying one of the most important horse-racing events in the world, as well as one of Dubai’s best social events. What’s more, the queues of 2008 (up to three hours for some) are but a distant memory: you’ve arrived with the minimum of fuss. So how can this handsome dream become reality?
‘Arrive at the venue as soon after 2pm, when the gates initially open, as possible,’ advises Dubai Racing Club [DRC]’s Lauren Wickins – otherwise known as your guide to World Cup wisdom. DRC has been scheming for months, analysing every task involved in guaranteeing 30,000 guests can move easily in and out of the Nad Al Sheba venue on the day.
‘People should arrive in taxis,’ Lauren continues. ‘This year, those who drive themselves will be given a hospitality pass to one of the 6,000 parking spots across the area, and then shuttled into the facility by a free bus.’ Taxi passengers, on the other hand, will be immediately dropped much closer to the action, after travelling in on specially allocated, clearer taxi routes. Additionally, instead of lining up for wrist bands on the day, this year you receive them when you collect your badge – thus sidestepping the double queue situation. Oh – and there’ll be none of that money tokens nonsense when buying drinks and food: instead, expect cash bars and credit card and ATM facilities on site.
Which, altogether, means one thing: more time for you to spend in the tents (unless you’re only interested in the racing itself). And what of these legendary entertainment tents? Are rumours they’re to be much scaled down from last year true? ‘Due to the construction of the Meydan Grandstand nearby, we do have slightly less room this year,’ Lauren explains. ‘But all the regulars are there: the Irish Village, Bubble Lounge, Wine Room and Style Arena.’ All under the umbrella term ‘Apron Views’, rather than the usual ‘International City’. Is this because of potential confusion with the now well-known housing estate of the same name? Erm – no. ‘The origin of Apron Views lies in the racing society,’ says Lauren. ‘The word “apron” refers to the paved area between the grandstand and the racing surface.’ If you were wondering.
And on top of the jugglers and clowns performing on the lawns, this year there’s an especially curious addition to the entertainment – bar wizards. ‘The bar wizards will be performing in the Silks Lounge,’ reveals Lauren. ‘They flip, spin, throw, catch and shake to make the ultimate cocktails.’ Now, close your eyes and listen to that World Cup hubbub again. Sound more realistic?