03/27/2010 7:32AM

Meydan: Impressions of Meydan


It's almost here.

The Arabian-breds are in the paddock for the first race, the traffic to get into the parking lot, or get dropped off by a taxi, looks to be about a mile long, and the runners for the first Thoroughbred race, the Al Quoz Sprint, are in the holding barn. The horses for the second Thoroughbred race, the Godolphin Mile, are probably on horse vans leaving the stables en route for a second holding barn.

For customers, and first-time visitors, it's hard to get a feel of the facility because of its size. From the end of the grandstand up the stretch, to the holding barn on the first turn, it's about a half-mile long - and 10 stories high. There is a hotel on the clubhouse turn, with balconies that allow residents to watch the horses run down the stretch. From stable to starting gate, the whole process takes about an hour and 45 minutes.

There are suites on several levels, general outdoor seating for more customers (although that would be a rather warm place to be based right now), and a larger American-style apron opposite the eighth pole that is quickly filling with people from all over the world.

For American racing fans, imagine Churchill Downs, Belmont Park or Santa Anita being double their size and they would probably still be much smaller than this place.  

The paddock itself is bigger than a football field, with ample room to walk a horse and stalls for saddling. After being saddled, the horses then proceed down a tunnel to the trackside walking ring where the jockeys climb aboard.

There is no betting in Dubai but there is a free competition to select winners. If someone picks all seven Thoroughbred races, there is a prize of 100,000 dirhams, which equates to approximately $27,200. No idea if that's for everybody who pick seven, which, of course, is not easy to do, or if the pool to be shared. There is even lesser prizes for consolation for pick six or picking five.

It's 95 degrees, and feels every bit of that.