03/31/2007 12:00AM

Work set to begin on new, larger Dubai track


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The Dubai Racing Club has announced plans to build a new racing facility approximately double the size of the current Nad al Sheba plant, and by the time the track is ready to open in 2010, the Dubai World Cup could boast a purse of approximately $10 million, according to Saeed H. Al-Tayer, chairman of the Dubai Racing Club.

The project, work for which is to commence immediately, is the latest example of Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum’s thinking: he dreams big, and has the will – and capital – to translate thought into action. Sheikh Mohammed, Dubai’s ruler, and the world’s pre-eminent horse owner, asked the Dubai Racing Club to undertake planning for the project a year ago.

"It was hard to get his vision down on paper," said Al-Tayer. "It was quite a challenge."

An architect has been hired, trainers and other racing-related experts consulted, and plans drawn up for a facility that its builders will try to fashion into the best in the world - a typical goal in a country that is in the process of constructing the world’s tallest building.

The new track, called Meydan, will be built on a site adjacent to the current Nad al Sheba facility, but won't interrupt racing here during it's construction, said Frank Gabriel, CEO of the Racing Club. The current facility seats only about 8,000 and can accommodate the 40,000 – 50,000 that attend the World Cup program, but Meydan will have seating for 30,000 to 40,000 and will be able to accommodate some 80,000 patrons. The project will encompass some 60 million square feet, and will include a golf course and tourist facilities. Al-Tayer said the facility would be "versatile," but did not directly address the question of whether the project could accommodate sports stadiums, or might be part of a bid by Dubai to host the Olympic games.

Gabriel, however, acknowledged that facility expansion here could make Dubai a suitable choice for the Breeders' Cup if that event eventually goes global, as some have suggested.

"That’s a decision that's way down the road, though," Gabriel said.

Al-Tayer said facility expansion wouldn't necessarily change the current structure of Dubai's winter race meet. "We don't want to radically enhance the Carnival," he said.