01/10/2011 2:04PM

Dubai Racing Carnival begins at Meydan


The Dubai Racing Carnival kicks off the stakes race season at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday. The Emirates Racing Authority will present 28 black-type races on 13 evenings of racing at Meydan between then and Saturday, March 26, the date of the 16th running of the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race at $10 million.

The 28 stakes at Meydan this year include four Group 1’s, 11 Group 2’s, eight Group 3’s, and five listed races worth a total of $30.6 million. The seven group races on Dubai World Cup Night have a total value of $26 million.

The 2010-11 United Arab Emirates season began Nov. 5 on the Jebel Ali dirt track, while the first card at Meydan was held Nov. 11; since then Meydan has conducted six more programs. All of them, however, were but a prelude for the Dubai Racing Carnival, which attracts a better class of horse from Europe, South Africa, South America, and throughout the Arab world even before World Cup Night. The opening-night feature is Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge, a one-mile, Group 3 contest worth $200,000.

The highlights of the Carnival will, of course, all come on World Cup Night and include the 1 1/8-mile Dubai Duty Free and the 1 1/2-mile Dubai Sheema Classic, the six-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen, the 1 3/16-mile UAE Derby, the Godolphin Mile, and Al Quoz Sprint on turf, which has been reduced in distance this year from six furlongs to five furlongs and upgraded from Group 3 to Group 2 status.

A single new race on the Meydan stakes program, the listed Firebreak Stakes for 3-year-olds going a mile on turf, will be run Feb. 10 along with the UAE 2000 Guineas, a prep for the UAE Derby. Both of those races will be run on Meydan’s Tapeta surface. Fifteen of Meydan’s stakes will be run on the synthetic Tapeta track, 13 on the turf course, which lies outside of the Tapeta course.

All but a large handful of the races at the Carnival will be worth at least $110,000, the exceptions being some races restricted to 3-year-olds. On March 20, Abu Dhabi, the turf course situated in the largest of the United Arab Emirates, will run the first Group 3 race in its 20-year Thoroughbred history, the 1 3/8-mile Abu Dhabi Championship. It will be worth $100,600. Jebel Ali will run three listed races, the Jebel Ali Stakes at 1 3/16 miles and 55 yards, the Jebel Ali Mile, and the Jebel Ali Sprint at five furlongs, each worth $136,150.