Updated on 09/16/2011 8:02AM

Dubai Diary: Part II


In the mid-1980's, Hollywood Park head honcho Marje Everett decided to build the "Pavilion of the Stars". It was an ultra-modern, state-of-the-art building for her high-end patrons and guests, with the idea that it would be especially important for the 1st Breeders' Cup. One problem. She built it in the worst possible spot. Located a good hundred yards past the finish line, it offered the worst seats in the house, at the highest price.

Amazingly, with all the money and research at his disposal, Sheik Mohammed did the same thing with his "Millennium Grandstand" at Nad al Sheba Racecourse, home of the . The sleek, hooded structure sits perched on the clubhouse turn, giving patrons (At $90 a pop on World Cup night) a perfectly horrible look at the $15 million dollar card.

The press box is located there as well, meaning yours truly will be out and about on Saturday night, flashing my press badge at ushers in hopes of sliding into an open seat in the regular grandstand.

Other than the poor positioning of the Millennium Grandstand, the facility is gorgeous, although completely without betting windows! Gambling is forbidden by the Muslim religion, so there is no legal wagering at Nad al Sheba. They do have a raffle for a new car, and another for a large cash prize, but there will be no exacta boxes, etc. Of course, the British bookmakers are here in force, so action won't be far away for those who want it.

The World Cup is held at night, under the lights, and over 50,000 are expected to be there to watch Sakhee romp to victory to close the show for the home team, but the buzz in the past few days has been about the Japanese entry, Agnes Digital. If he can spring the upset, it would mark a new era in international racing, as the Japanese have yet to strike in a big event outside of the Far East packed with European and American horses.

The other "talking horse" is an Argentinean-bred four year-old named Second Reality, who looks to have the Godolphin three year-olds over a barrel in the 1 1/4 UAE Derby. It will be a race watched closely by Sheik Mohammed, who wants the KY Derby in the worst way, and needs either Essence of Dubai, Janadel, or Ibn Al haitham to run a career race Sat. night to springboard them to Kentucky.

Sheik Mohammed may have missed the boat on placing his prime seats and could well be without a Kentucky Derby starter this year despite pouring over $50 million into the effort, but the man can throw a party.

His "Arabian Nights" extravaganza Thursday night was incredible. The site was deep into the desert near the site of the endurance race won earlier in the day by two of Sheik Mo's sons (They always win in the home country).

There was enough food to feed every offensive lineman in the NFL for a week, and a huge fortress built into a massive sand dune for atmosphere.

Giant hookahs were available for smoking, a number of hooded falcons were on hand, waiting to swoop on demand, and there were quite a few bored looking camels waiting to be ridden.

Yes, I rode a camel. You can't come this far and not step up when the opportunity is placed before you. First off, when they rise up, they rise way up. I was riding high on the desert sands, feeling like Gary Stevens aboard Point Given. The ride only lasted a minute, but was delayed when the stubborn dromedary, clearly thrilled to be toting such an esteemed journalist, refused to let me down. Camels go down in three sections, but this one was standing tall with me in the saddle. His handler tugged, pulled and cajoled, but the camel was steadfast. Finally, the whip came out, and slowly the camel did his three-step knee drop and I was back on terra firma, richer for the experience and having gained respect for the Bedouins who relied so heavily on the difficult animals.

Next up - A much anticipated trip to the gold souks of old Dubai.