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2020 Dubai World Cup Cancelled

Lightning strikes over the track at Meydan on Saturday night.
Date: 03/22/2020

The $12 million Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (G1) was scheduled to be run on Saturday March 28 at Meydan Racecourse, celebrating its 25th renewal. For years it was billed as the world's richest horse race but lost that title with last month's $20 million Saudi Cup in Riyadh. The race started in 1996 when two-time U.S. Horse of the Year Cigar shipped over to win, defeating California invader Soul of the Matter. The second running had to be postponed 5 days due to torrential rain that the old Nad al Sheba track could not handle, but Sheikh Mohammed insisted the show must go on and his homebred Singspiel romped to victory. The current dirt surface at Meydan is built to handle rain, as it proved when Arrogate won over the mud in 2017, and Dubai sustained heavy rains and even some hail on Saturday. Despite the coronavirus COVID-19 causing disruptions all over the world, especially in sports, until this morning the Dubai Racing Club appeared ready to run the races "behind closed doors" with no fans in the stands, and no events such as the post position draw and "Breakfast with the Stars". But things turned for the worst on Sunday March 22, and officials announced the 2020 Dubai World Cup is cancelled, and the 25th running will occur next year instead. The official release from the Dubai Media Office said, "To safeguard the health of all participants, the higher organizing committee of the Dubai World Cup 2020 has decided to postpone (the) 25th edition of the global tournament to next year." In addition, the Emirates Racing Authority cancelled the remainder of the UAE racing season, which includes scheduled cards at Al Ain, Jebel Ali, and Meydan.

Saeed Al Tayer, chairman and CEO of Meydan Group LLC said, "Due to the ongoing global health implications of the coronavirus and precautionary measures being implemented by the UAE government, the organising committee regrets to announce the cancellation of the Dubai World Cup 2020 meeting at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday, March 28." Nine-time Dubai World Cup winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor added, "Obviously this is very disappointing news, but it's the right decision as the safety of all concerned is of great importance. These are very difficult times and my thoughts are with everyone, not just the racing community, but everyone living in the UAE and also all those who are under the threat of the coronavirus around the world. You can rest assured that our leaders and our government are united in their commitment to deal with the situation positively in order to make our country safe as possible for everyone."

For more information on who is still running (without spectators of course) and who has cancelled meets in North America, check here.

The view off the balcony at one of the rooms at the Meydan Hotel. Usually the press is housed off-site at a major hotel in the city (this year it was to be the Fairmont Dubai), but with the reduced numbers of credentialed media, they were put in the hotel located at the clubhouse end of the massive grandstand. This gave our photographer Vanessa Ng, who has attended every running since Invasor won in 2007, an opportunity to tour the facilities for us. The hotel also has a rooftop swimming pool that overlooks the track, however this (as well as the health club) was closed.

Vertical views of the interior of the hotel's public areas. Yasir Mabrouk of the Emirates Racing Association said, "It is hugely disappointing news for the horse racing community, but the proliferation of the COVID-19 remains unchecked. The UAE government has always put public safety and health before anything else and its reassuring that the decision to call-off the Dubai World Cup is an assurance that the safety and welfare of trainers, jockeys, owners, stable staff and racing officials are a priority. Having been a part of the racing fabric of the UAE for over 25 years I feel sorry for a lot of people who have worked hard for months and months, preparing for March 28, the silver jubilee. But this is something that we have to accept as it is beyond everyone's control."

Another reason for the cancellation is the near-shutdown of Emirates Airline starting on Wednesday. Originally they announced they were suspending all passenger flights due to reduced demand and travel restrictions, but soon backtracked on this and will maintain services to certain destinations where borders are still open and there is demand.

Some of the sculptures in the hotel. Emirates Group CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said, The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is an unprecedented crisis situation in terms of breadth and scale: geographically, as well as from a health, social, and economic standpoint. Until January 2020, the Emirates Group was doing well against our current financial year targets. But COVID-19 has brought all that to a sudden and painful halt over the past 6 weeks. As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries re-open their borders, and travel confidence returns. By Wednesday 25 March, although we will still operate cargo flights which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended most of its passenger operations. We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services."
Part of the lobby of the hotel. The possible shutdown of the airline and closure of borders meant that, as soon as the races were cancelled, visiting horsemen and media scrambled to find flights home. Luis Carvajal Jr., trainer of Imperial Hint, who was to run in the Golden Shaheen, said, "People from Meydan are doing a great job trying to put everyone who is here on a flight back home, but, as you can imagine, we have all these people from different countries and we're all packing as fast as we can. The horses are scheduled to go back to the USA April 4, but there are still issues back home with customs to see what we will do when the horses arrive. Unfortunately, I have to leave tonight, but luckily in my barn where I was staying, there are probably eight horses and there are two people staying behind, plus the people from Dubai Racing who will be watching these horses."

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