History of the Dubai World Cup by Shannel Cacho

History of the Dubai World Cup

by Shannel Cacho 


The 23rd running of the Dubai World Cup is this Saturday, March 30th with thirteen horses scheduled to enter the starting gate, including last year’s winner Thunder Snow. With the Dubai World Cup just a few days away, I figured it would be nice to give you a quick history about the race.


The first ever Dubai World Cup was held in 1996 at Nad Al Sheeba Racecourse in Dubai, with eleven runners and a purse of $4M, making it the richest race in the world.  Future Hall of Famer Cigar, who was trained by Bill Mott, was in the inaugural race and his presence helped to put the race on the global radar after his winning performance.


The race is annually held on the last Saturday in March and it is for Northern Hemisphere horses that are at least four years old, and Southern Hemisphere horses that are at least three years of age. The Dubai World Cup is ten furlongs (1 ¼ miles) and has been run on dirt every year except for the span of 2010-2014 when it was run on Tapeta, an all-weather surface that Meydan installed before they changed their surface to dirt. Almost every year since it’s inauguration the Dubai World Cup has been the world’s richest horse race with the exception of 2017 and 2018 when the Pegasus World Cup surpassed it with a purse of $12M in 2017 and $16M in 2018. This year however the Pegasus World Cup lowered its purse to $9M dollars to accommodate the newly created Pegasus World Cup Turf, causing the Dubai World Cup with an increased purse of $12M to once again be the world’s richest horse race.


Over the course of the last twenty-three years the Dubai World Cup has encountered changes and has had its share of challenges. The second running of the race was actually cancelled due to torrential rains that made the track impossible to run on. Sheikh Mohammad however was determined to ensure the race would be run, so he had helicopters from the United Arab Emirates Air Force hover over the track in order to dry the surface.  The race was held five days later. The following year, the race attained Grade I status, this was the same year that Silver Charm won the Dubai World Cup. Silver Charm is one of three Kentucky Derby winners to have ever won the race.


In 2006, the race was shown live for the first time on national television in the United States due to coverage from TVG and HRTV. The 14th running of the race in 2009 was the last time that the race was held at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse. This is when Well Armed, an American Thoroughbred won by a whooping fourteen lengths, setting a new track record. The next year (2010), Meydan Grandstand and Racecourse, which is currently the world’s largest integrated racing facility, became the home of the Dubai World Cup with a new purse of ten million dollars.


Notable stats include the 2000 running in which Dubai Millennium set the stakes record by running the race in 1:59.50 at Nad Al Sheeba Racecourse. Godolphin currently holds the title for most wins by an owner. Jerry Bailey holds the record for most wins by a jockey (1996,1997,2001,2002), and Saeed bin Suroor holds the most wins by a trainer.


Since the inception of the race, no horse has ever won more than once.  Thunder Snow will be trying to break this trend and make history this year.