x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Fans hail home of 'a very special event'

Racecourse impresses and is described as a fitting tribute to the region's love of horses

Families picnic beside each other during the Dubai World Cup at the  Meydan racing facility.
Families picnic beside each other during the Dubai World Cup at the Meydan racing facility.

DUBAI // As the afternoon wore on and the first race edged near, Meydan Racecourse filled with well-dressed patrons, most of whom were impressed by the new home of Dubai racing. Despite the odd quibble about metal detectors not working efficiently and attendants not knowing where to direct badge-holders, Meydan had passed its test.

Tamer Yahya, 30, from Egypt, said he "loves horses" and has attended numerous races in Cyprus and Mumbai. For him, yesterday's spectacle was more about the event than the racing, and was a world away from his previous track experiences. "This is a state-of-the-art building," he said. "It is built to accommodate international races, and everything from the infrastructure to the architecture is just amazing."

At races in India, he said, fans dressed in casual clothing and stood next to the track. "In India, the racing is very traditional and everyone stands up close, but in Cyprus they are crazy for horses and it's best not to stand next to the racecourse if they lose," he said, laughing. "Here, in Dubai, it is much more about the whole event, with people spending time to prepare physically and mentally."

The set-up at Meydan, Mr Yahya said, was very professional and a fitting tribute to the Arabian passion for horses. "It is a very special event with VIP and celebrity guests," he said. "Horses are a part of the culture here and it is a great arena for the [animals]." Raj Kapadia has watched big races in India and Royal Ascot, and saw previous Dubai World Cup events at Nad al Sheba. He agreed that Meydan was "definitely getting there".

"From what I have witnessed, so far it is pretty good," he said, reclining on one of the white sofas in front of the grandstand. He said some elements of the organisation did not match up with more established tracks such as Ascot, but he was pleased with his first taste of the Dubai venue. "It could have been better signposted inside the grandstand regarding where you can and cannot go," he said. "But there is a great turnout and it's a huge area, so it's all nicely spread out.

"I will move up to the grandstand to watch the races soon. The view is good from there." Mr Kapadia, who has lived in Dubai for 20 years, was looking forward to performances by Elton John and Carlos Santana later and predicted that by next year any small problems would be ironed out. Phil Taylor, 39, a Briton who has lived in Dubai for three years, also was at the track for music as well as the horses. "I came here for the Sting concert [on March 4]," he said, "and the venue is really impressive." One of the first into the facility yesterday afternoon, he said it was surprisingly quiet, but by late afternoon the area had filled with women wearing elaborate hats and their nattily attired partners.

"It's a great big area, much more comfortable than Nad al Sheba, and once you're in it's an unbelievable venue," Mr Taylor said. "I would much rather be here than Newcastle, that's for sure." @Email:loatway@thenational.ae