by Jordan Finkle

The gates crash open and the crowd roars; eight thoroughbreds power their way down the first straight, their jockeys knowing all too well that a good start is everything.

You can hear the symphony of hooves clattering across the turf, see the sheen of sweat on the horses as they get up to pace, and feel for their riders as they strain every sinew to deliver in the only competition that really counts.

Wrest your eyes away from the race for a moment, if you can, and imagine the tens of thousands of faces in the grandstand. From sharp suits to flawless fascinators, the crowd is dressed for the occasion – think Ascot, not Aintree.

This is the realm of the Dubai World Cup at the legendary Meydan Racecourse, the 27th installment of the annual event, which raised the roof on Saturday night. You will never, I would suggest, see anything else quite like it.

Held every year by the Dubai Racing Club since 1996, the World Cup comprises of nine races with US$30.5 million in total prize money on the line. VIPs, racing royalty, and literal royalty all come together at Meydan to celebrate the legacy of horse racing on the Arabian peninsula and do so in some style.

Whether sitting pretty in the main stand with the finest of dining, or watching from further afield, anyone watching the World Cup will see how the jockeys, their charges and the spectators feed off each other’s energy.

Those in attendance are buoyed by the spectacle and their presence at one of the year’s most high-profile events; man and beast out on the track fueled by the attention from the crowd and ready to go hell-for-leather for fame and fortune.

Even if you forget the racing, just for one moment, being in the Meydan grandstand on World Cup day was quite the experience in and of itself.

Think of the atmosphere in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot and then imagine it across four different tiers.

First and foremost, private suites accommodate anything from 10 to 500 invitees – a magical combination of fine dining and peerless views of the races themselves.

In the Dubai Lounge, which is close to palatial, there’s a direct view of the Parade Ring and finishing line. Outdoor seats mean that chosen guests kick back in front of the racing with a canape or two (or three).

As you might imagine, the Parade Ring Lounge stands adjacent to the Parade Ring, putting spectators within a hair’s breadth of the horses as they make their way to the gate.

To get an idea, picture yourself attending a Real Madrid game, but pitch-side, looking like Coco Chanel rather than in a tracksuit, potentially with a glass of fizz, a selection of fine food close at hand, the company to match and then Karim Benzema walks past having just scored the winning goal. It’s that kind of special.

Racing aficionados certainly got their fill on Saturday, with the 2023 Dubai World Cup as unpredictable and enthralling as ever.

Defending champion Country Grammar failed to live up to expectations, opening the field for Japan’s Ushba Tesoro – piloted by Yuga Kawada – to storm down the final straight and steal the US$12 million race at the death. James Doyle’s highly rated Algiers and Saudi Cup-winner Emblem Road came second and third; they will come again.

And, as if the rivalries on the track weren’t tempting enough, the 2023 World Cup wouldn’t be the same without another installment of the famous Style Stakes fashion competition, with prizes totaling close to US$100,00.

Jordanian entrepreneur and influencer supremo Haya Awad reigned as one of the judges over the Stakes and she was joined by the equally glamorous Dareen Al-Tamimy. Categories included most ‘Creative Hat’, ‘Best Dressed Man’, ‘Best Dressed Couple’, ‘Best Dressed Lady’ and, for the first time, the ‘Best Traditional Outfit’.

A glance at this year’s event demonstrates a crowd that positively shimmers with style, with Zimbabwean born Chawada Fabisch winning the inaugural ‘Best Traditional Outfit’ category and Susan Sauer winning the ‘Creative Hat’ category for her pink feathered creation.

The night concluded with what can only be described as a truly spectacular closing ceremony which broke Two Guinness World Records for its firework and drone show.

Most of the competition was happening on Meydan’s turf and dirt tracks of course; not a single soul looked anywhere else once the gate sprang open. The Dubai World Cup, however, has gone beyond the racing – even though it would be nothing with out it.

The races have ascended to more than an event; they’re part of a lifestyle and one that its followers crave after. Remember for the future, then, that the World Cup is for one night only and simply cannot be missed.

Presented by: Jordan Finkle

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