x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Meydan has become the world's horse-racing capital, British trainer says

Dandy Nicholls is pleased to be back on UAE soil and describes Meydan Racecourse as the hub of the racing world.

Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse, with its lucrative prize money and luxurious facilities, has become the most important track for top horses from all over the world.
Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse, with its lucrative prize money and luxurious facilities, has become the most important track for top horses from all over the world.

Dandy Nicholls has been a mainstay on the Emirates racing scene over the years and the British trainer firmly believes that since its inaugural season in 2010, Meydan Racecourse has already established itself as the centre of the racing world.

Nicholls, who has four horses entered at the Dubai International Carnival this season, is in the vanguard of a small but select group of British trainers whose very existence in racing lies in an almost tireless, but successful, pursuit of the coin.

This afternoon in Britain there are two cards that feature flat racing and the 14 races offer total win prize money of £25,435 (Dh151,514).

Tonight at Meydan, the thoroughbred race that offers the least win prize money is the Meydan Classic Trial, which still boasts a purse of Dh113,977 to the victor.

It is a stark contrast, and is the reason why there are 59 horses entered at the Carnival this season that hail from British yards.

"People are quick to stick the boot in to racing in Britain, but many people forget that we are in an entertainment sport," Nicholls said.

"If you've got a horse good enough to compete at Meydan, and it is a good traveller, you want to go to Dubai. Why wouldn't you?"

Like compatriot Stan Moore, Nicholls has been casting his net wider in an effort to make racing pay better.

The pair have sent runners to the sleepy French track of Cagnes-sur-Mer this winter in an effort to plunder French racing's comparatively generous coffers.

"Prize money is better over in France than in Britain," Nicholls said.

"We had a horse called Something who won well for us there the other day."

There are 27 countries with horses participating at Meydan during the Carnival, and Nicholls cannot see anywhere else in the world that can match the sheer variety and importance of racing in the UAE.

"When Nad al Sheba was there it was a cracking meeting place for everybody. It offered a chance to meet international owners and trainers and learn different ideas.

"Now with Meydan being so huge it is the centre of the racing world.

"There's no question about that, it makes Royal Ascot look like a crate of dog meat in comparison.

"Everybody comes to Meydan from all over the world. We don't get that at Ascot. We might get a few Australians who pinch a few quid off us every year, but that's about it."

Nicholls, who arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday morning, has saddled 54 runners in Dubai during the past five seasons and has yet to have a winner.

In that time, however, he has amassed more than Dh2m in prize-money and has saddled two runners-up, including Inxile's second to Our Giant, owned by the world No 1 golfer Lee Westwood, in the Conquest Conditions Race on January 13, the opening card of the Carnival.

Nicholls lines up Inxile once again tonight in the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint, but was crestfallen when he learned that his charge was drawn in the outside stall for the second time."I swear that every time I have a runner at Meydan, he's drawn out wide," he said.

"They've got no chance from there. It was the same the last time Inxile ran. He tried to make all the running but couldn't sustain it."

The six-year-old gelding was the 15th successive horse to emerge from the widest stall on the Tapeta track over six furlongs to have lost.

If Nicholls is to continue his mercenary ways out here, he will have to hope for better luck with the draw.

sports@thenational.ae

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