The Dubai World Cup is one of the most elaborate horse races in the world, not to mention the richest one. Last year, the purse for the race was $12 million, and Thunder Snow won it for $7.2 million.
The 2020 Dubai World Cup was set to run this Saturday, March 28 at Meydan Racecourse. The entire racing day was set to offer eight Thoroughbred races and one Arabian contest. The cumulative purse for the day was $35 million.
Precautions to Postponement
The first announcement regarding the 2020 Dubai World Cup came on March 16, just days after the World Health Organization (WHO) newly classified the coronavirus outbreak of COVID-19 an official pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, the Dubai Racing Club and the Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) decided to host the meet on March 28 “without paid hospitality spectators.” The move was in line with precautionary measures implemented by the United Arab Emirates government.
Further, all of the events surrounding the Dubai World Cup, including the post-position draw and welcoming reception, were cancelled. The only people allowed into the Meydan Racecourse in the days leading up to the race and on racing day would be those with connections to the horses, sponsors, accredited media, and ERA racing officials.
Six days later, the organizing committee officially postponed the 25th Dubai World Cup in its entirety.
“We believe it is our duty to help protect the well-being of residents and guests.”
Most people in the racing industry understand that tracks and racing organizations have little choice but to close facilities and cancel races in this time of a pandemic. The health of the general public is of paramount importance. Few argue this point.
However, those who traveled to Dubai with their horses to compete in the Dubai World Cup are angry.
Participants in the race – 21 of them – were told to make the trek to the UAE and prepare their horses for the race. But just one week before the meet, with everyone in Dubai already, they were told otherwise.
According to the Paulick Report, some of the participants are beyond frustrated. “We all went over there, got our horses out there, and all of a sudden, we’re not running. It’s such a waste,” said Elizabeth Dobles who was to run War Story in the race for the first time. “Everybody was pretty upset, not just upset but mad.”
Worse, Americans who arrived in Dubai for the race were then only given 48 hours to leave Dubai before the UAE shut down the airlines, per governmental orders. They were able to leave the horses, with care left to the Dubai staff, though they didn’t have much choice. Making their own arrangements to leave the UAE within 48 hours was difficult enough.
The expenses piled up for a race not run and purse not won. Dobles also expressed concern that War Story was prepared to run and had been training but now must sit in a stall with only an hour-long walk each day. “You have to worry about them kicking down the walls,” she said.
Dobles also fears that her 8-year-old horse may not be in shape next year, may not qualify to run in the 2021 Dubai World Cup.
The Dubai World Cup only has a relatively short history dating back to 1996. However, this will be the first time – on the race’s 25th anniversary, no less – that the race had to be cancelled.
Last year, the race made history in the industry with its $12 million purse, which was a $2 million increase from the previous year. Even more, Thunder Snow became the first horse to win the Dubai World Cup twice. And he did it by a nose in back-to-back years in a photo finish.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the 2020 horse racing season in general. Even the Kentucky Derby and other races in the American Triple Crown were rescheduled to September. But the cancellation of the Dubai World Cup was one of the more disappointing results of the pandemic thus far.