Author: Nicholas Godfrey

Such is the cosmopolitan nature of the Dubai World Cup Carnival that an opening meeting last week featuring winners from three separate continents barely merits the raising of an eyebrow. Not so long ago, the concept of a major racing festival being held approximately 3,000 miles from any other major equine centre in the middle of the Northern Hemisphere winter would have seemed laughable. Now, though, it feels par for the course. The first Dubai Carnival came into being in 2004, taking the concept of international racing to a new level as 53 trainers from 17 countries sent 105 overseas runners to compete in the Gulf.

It is no fawning exaggeration to suggest that Sheikh Mohammed’s vision has dramatically changed the face of the racing world; certainly, the Dubai World Cup Carnival has changed the parameters of the global racing calendar. Lest it be forgotten, the $12 million Dubai World Cup is now restored to its position as the most valuable race on the planet ahead of the Pegasus later this month. Before then, however, nearly $12.7m is on offer across 65 races (61 Thoroughbred; four for Purebred Arabians) at this year’s carnival, which runs for nine consecutive Thursdays before the ‘Super Saturday’ card on March 9. No race will be worth less than $135,000, and that just for the lower grade handicaps for horses rated 90 and above.

Nowhere will you find a more cosmopolitan cast of racing celebrities: the international acceptors’ list runs to more than 200, with horses from 71 individual overseas trainers based in 17 different nations, from South Korea to South Africa and South America, from Australia to Argentina, via Denmark, Sweden and Spain. As last week’s card evidenced, though, any visitors will face a stiff task in attempting to challenge the supremacy of a domestic contingent headed by formidable Dubai-based American Doug Watson (wait until that Drafted gets back up to seven furlongs) and Godolphin pair Saeed bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby on their home patch. Personally, I love seeing horses coming to Dubai from all four corners of the globe, so here are six of them who, even if they don’t win, will add a welcome nuance to proceedings.

Carnival is truly international