05/14/2014 7:39AM

Meydan to replace Tapeta surface with dirt

Andrew Watkins
Animal Kingdom, shown winning the 2013 Dubai World Cup, is one of just two U.S. runners to win races on the synthetic Tapeta Footings surface at Meydan.

Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, home of the $10 million Dubai World Cup, will replace its Tapeta Footings synthetic main track with a dirt track before the start of its 2014-15 racing season late this year.

The surface switch, loudly rumored since the week of the March 29 Dubai World Cup, was made public in a release Wednesday from the board of directors of The Meydan Group.

"This is a decision that will be best for the future of Meydan racing and the Dubai World Cup Carnival. In the coming year we will celebrate the 20th running of the Dubai World Cup, and the track will be the natural surface that proved so successful during the first 14 years of this magnificent race day,” Meydan Group chairman and CEO Saeed Al Thayer said in the release.

The synthetic surface at the palatial Meydan track proved popular with European and Asian horsemen, but increasingly was shunned by the North American participants that had been so heavily involved beginning with Cigar’s victory in the inaugural 1996 World Cup. A U.S.-based runner won the World Cup eight times on the dirt track at Nad al Sheba, but not a single horse shipped from North America for this year’s edition of the $10 million race, and only two American-based horses competed on the entire World Cup program this year.

Synthetic surfaces like Tapeta tend to play more like turf than dirt, and the synthetic track at Meydan tipped the balance of power in Dubai toward horses in Europe and Asia. Only two U.S. runners, including Animal Kingdom in the 2013 World Cup, won synthetic races at Meydan, and a U.S.-based horse never has won a turf race on a Dubai World Cup card.