Horse racing is an ancient sport; its history stretches from Romans hurtling around amphitheatres in chariots to today's mega prize-winning races. Nowhere is it more evocative than in the Middle East, where racing and many of the world's fastest and most valuable horses have long been part of the region's heritage. As with many traditional pastimes, there is an etiquette to follow that can be slightly intimidating, especially for novice racegoers.
But if this Saturday will be your first Dubai World Cup, there's no need to worry, and you don't have to be a racing expert to enjoy yourself. There's the thrill of watching the horses cross the finish line, the cheering of the crowds, and a glamorous day out that offers everyone the chance to get seriously dressed up. This year's Dubai World Cup marks the 14th race in the history of the event, and will be the last held at the Nad Al Sheba racecourse before next year's move to the new Meydan racecourse, which is currently under construction. "This meeting will be very poignant, as it closes the chapter on Dubai's flagship racecourse," says the Dubai World Cup spokeswoman Lisa Jung. "But it makes way for Meydan and all that it will offer horse racing here in the UAE."
As the final World Cup at Nad Al Sheba, it's not surprising that tickets have sold faster than ever before and will not be available on race day, though there is complimentary general admission to the racetrack and to the public grandstand, just not to certain terraces and communal areas. With over 50,000 people expected to attend, it has been a mammoth organisational task for the team behind it. "The planning for the 2009 Dubai World Cup began the very next day after the 2008 meeting," says Jung. "It's been a huge effort from everyone involved and we are excited to see our preparations unfold." Make sure you are just as prepared as they are with our guide to every aspect of race day - including expert advice on choosing the perfect hat.