Amith Passela looks at the key races and fixtures for the 2013/14 UAE horse racing season at Dubai's Meydan Racecourse and Jebel Ali Racetrack.
UAE racetracks: Features and fixtures for 2013/2014
The course: The Dubai complex is one of the world’s great tracks and the racing centrepiece of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, a leading horse owner and breeder. The track, a left-handed oval, consists of a 1,750-metre Tapeta surface and 2,400m turf track. The gigantic grandstand has a 20,000-tiered seating and can accommodate a crowd of more than 60,000. It is completed by a 280-room, five-star hotel complex; 95 percent of the rooms provide an unobstructed view of the racetrack.
Fixtures: Meets are held on Thursdays and Saturdays, with 20 meetings in the 2013/14 season, culminating with the grand finale Dubai World Cup on March 29.
Special features: Meydan offers several opportunities for racegoers to win prizes ranging from cash to valuable gifts from the free-entry tickets to the tri-cast competition. Contact number: 04 327 0077
Key races this season: As awlays, the nine-race, US$27.25 million (Dh100m) Dubai World Cup meet, caped by the race of the same name, is the big day, and the most lucrative in world racing. The Dubai World Cup Carnival, January 9 to March 8, consists of 11high-class meetings with more than $37m.
The course: Not much has changed at the Equestrian Club racecourse since the facility underwent massive refurbishment in 1994. A new 5,000-seat grandstand was built and the grass racetrack modernised with the installation of floodlights to enable races to be conducted after sunset. The racetrack, a right-handed 2,000-metre oval, has been a regular venue since racing was started under the Jockey Emirates Racing Rules in 1991. Abu Dhabi is referred to as the unofficial headquarters for Purebred Arabian racing in the country.
Fixtures: The races at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club are held on Sundays with 12 meetings scheduled for the 2013/14 season. It is three meetings fewer than the previous year.
Special features: Fans can win prizes ranging from cash to valuable gifts from the free-entry tickets and the tri-cast competition. On some occasions, they have also raffled cars on the free-entry tickets. Contact number: 02 445 5500.
Key races this season: The President of the UAE Cup for the Purebred Arabians for a purse of Dh1 million is the highlight. In recent times, organisers have added another significant race of international stature in the capital’s opening meeting – the Sheikh Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship.
The course: Branded as the “Garden Club”, the Jebel Ali Racetrack enjoys a high turnout for its Friday afternoon meetings. The area around the grandstand resembles a picnic for all with a variety of side events and a children’s play area. A further level was added to the grandstand in 1995 to increase the seating capacity to 2,000, but the popular area is the open space surrounding it. The right-handed horseshoe-shaped track of 2,200m is unique because of its steep, European-style finish designed by Dhruba Selvaratnam, the Jebel Ali Stables trainer. The surface is a mixture of soil and sand.
Fixtures: The races at Jebel Ali are held on Friday afternoons. The season gets under way November 1 with the curtain-raiser meeting at the racetrack, the first of the 11 meetings.
Special features: Visitors receive complimentary caps, T-shirts and souvenirs as well as “Pick Six” competition coupons to predict and win cash prizes and participate in the draw to win valuable prizes from the free entrance tickets. Contact number: 04 347 4914
Key races this season: The Jebel Ali Mile, the Jebel Ali Stakes, and the Jebel Ali Sprint are the featured races, each carrying prize money of Dh500,000.
The course: Races were staged at the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club in 1983, making it the first venue for horse racing in the country. The racecourse underwent complete renovation in 1995 on the instructions of Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah. It included the construction of a new grandstand and the redesigning of the racetrack. The dirt/sand surfaced acetrack consists of a 1,600m left-handed oval with a 1,200m straight.
Fixtures: Sharjah will host five meetings this season on Saturday afternoons from November 2 to December 7. There are usually seven races in a 2pm start.
Special features: Visitors can win cash prizes from the free-entry tickets in the raffle draw held at the end of the meeting. During the race meetings, the organisers offer horseback rides for children and have also set up a children’s play area. Contact number: 06 531 1188
Key race this season: The Sharjah Ruler’s Cup, part of the concluding meeting, on December 7, is the high point of the season.
The course: Horse racing at the Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club was to be staged last season but the move was shelved and they make a fresh start with five meetings scheduled for the 2013/14 season. The racetrack is a right-handed dirt/sand oval. Al Ain has been a regular venue for showjumping competitions and has hosted the FEI World Cup qualifier since 2007 when the facility was established. Al Ain becomes the UAE’s fifth horse racing venue when the first meeting is held there.
Fixtures: The first two dates of racing at the venue initially were to be held on November 30 and December 20 but have been rescheduled for February 14 and March 20 by the Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) to allow more preparation time at the track. Contact number: 03 702 6405
Key race this season: For a racetrack making its debut, the featured races are yet to be decided.