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Real Steel winning the 2016 renewal of the Dubai Turf. Haigh believes that the 9f race – held at the DWC meeting staged at a place and at a time of year suiting the majority (and under rules that apply to most of the world’s racing jurisdictions) – is the closest to being a “World Championship” race

champions actually turned up. Oh, California Chrome was there in body all right, sort of impersonating himself from the outside gate that’s proved an almost insurmountable obstacle to fair competition since the track’s reconstruction. But that was all. Still, never mind that. We were all invited to exult in Arrogate’s reaffirmation of his supposed global supremacy, and thrill at the thought of his proceeding to Dubai where presumably, because he is by far the best of the American Dirt horses, he will “prove” his superiority again. Look, what is the point of all these races with the prefix or suffix “World” attached to them which are actually nothing of the sort except in aspiration? The “World Turf Championships” are allegedly held in Hong Kong in December. No, they’re not. An excellent meeting is held then in Hong Kong in that month which always attracts high-class challengers from various overseas countries. But no one says of the Arc winner, just for an example, “Oh, he must go to Hong Kong” – not even when the Arc winner is owned by a Hong Konger (see Sea The Stars). Hong Kong’s international day is a supremely good meeting for fast ground horses at a time of year when most of the best horses in the northern-hemisphere are out of training anyway. To get such good overseas representation at that time of year (Japan helps a lot) is a remarkable annual achievement. So why demean the meeting? Why invite ridicule by presenting it as The World Turf Championships? It’s only slightly more ridiculous than calling the Breeders’ Cup the “World Thoroughbred Racing Championships”. No they’re not. They’re the North American Championships to which a few Europeans turn up, in spite of the eccentric American “medication” rules or sometimes because of them.

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Dubai’s only problem is that it seems determined to run its main event for the benefit of the Americans, rather than to encourage competition from all over the world

No Australians go near them, no Japanese, no South Africans, no Hong Kongers (although Rich Tapestry did a couple of years ago because he was an out-and-out Dirt horse, as he had proved on Hong Kong’s unrespected, very secondary Dirt course, and had a tendency to bleed so he might as well try North America). Take away Aidan O Brien and the few Euros who bother to make the trip and what you’ve got is a local competition about as much an international test as Sydney’s modestly entitled “The Championships”. To which – have the Australians noticed? – nobody else bothers to come. The only way you can have anything like a world championship in racing is if you stage it at a time and place that is convenient to all and conduct it according to the rules that apply in the vast majority of the world’s racing jurisdictions. There is no such time and place, but the Dubai World (that word again) Cup meeting probably comes as close to it as it’s possible to get. Dubai’s only problem is that it seems determined to run its main event for the benefit of the Americans, rather than to encourage competition from all over the world. If Dubai racing organisers were really smart they would elevate the 9f event, the Dubai Turf and used to be the one known as the Dubai Duty Free, to the premier position. Not the Sheema Classic because that’s over 1m4f, which is much too far for the Americans who describe that distance as a “marathon”. The so-called Dubai World Cup could then drop down to second billing (or third) as something like the Dubai Dirt Championship. Then we’d see what the international handicappers would do. Would they still inflate the ratings for Dirt horses as a matter of course. Or would they rate more highly the international 9f turf race that would surely attract real competition from all over the racing world?

Profile for Thoroughbred Publishing

ITB_March_April 2017  

We speak to champion UAE trainer Doug Watson ahead of the Dubai World Cup, we put some data behind the Jockey Club's Kempton Park proposals,...

ITB_March_April 2017  

We speak to champion UAE trainer Doug Watson ahead of the Dubai World Cup, we put some data behind the Jockey Club's Kempton Park proposals,...