From Singapore to Argentina, Canada to Australia, and Sweden to Dubai, horse racing takes place on all continents and in many countries around the world.
There are many areas where horse racing is well established and has a long history, in the UK, Ireland, and the US for example.
There are other, up and coming horse racing centres that have achieved international prominence in a comparatively short space of time.
Here we look at one of those centres – Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai has become a key racing hub in the winter months and is a place where many European-trained horses head to compete for a share of many valuable races.
Benbatl (5/1) – There has only been one eight-year-old winner of the Dubai World Cup when Prince Bishop triumphed in 2015, but Saeed Bin Suroor’s Benbatl looks to have a good chance of becoming the joint oldest winner in March.
Benbatl is already a multiple Group One winner, victories which include the 2018 Dubai Turf run on the same card as the Dubai World Cup. Last season he proved his liking for dirt when winning a Group Two over this trip at Meydan.
He has plenty going for him, despite his age, and he could be set to give his trainer a remarkable 10th win in the race.
Essential Quality (7/1) – Essential Quality looked an up-and-coming young horse in the US last season, winning five Group races from a possible six.
His only blip came in the Kentucky Derby, where he was sent off the 29/10 favourite, but he paid the price for challenging four-wide off the home turn there and could only manage fourth.
There should be more to come from Essential Quality in his four-year-old season and given his ability on dirt he has to be seriously considered.
Knicks Go (8/1) – Last season’s Pegasus World Cup winner, Knicks Go, chose to take up an engagement in the new Saudi Cup rather than go to Dubai. He came up short there, but is a very capable horse on his day, as he proved when winning a Group One at Saratoga when last seen. This son of Paynter has never raced over one mile two furlongs, however, so his stamina could be tested in Dubai.
Mystic Guide (10/1) – Mystic Guide was a ready winner in the 2021 edition of this race, but the suspicion is that it was a weak renewal.
He was beaten this summer in Group Two company at Belmont Park and maybe vulnerable next season if lining up to defend his crown.
Magny Cours (12/1) – Andre Fabre’s horse ran a huge race when third to Mystic Guide last season, his first start on dirt. Perhaps that run took something out of him though, as he hasn’t looked the same horse since, managing only a Listed race win from five starts.
Magny Cours will be a seven-year-old if he lines up in Dubai in 2022, and he is likely to find several too good once again.
The Dubai racing season culminates on Dubai World Cup night, which features a star-studded card of eight Group races, with the prestigious Group One Dubai World Cup the finale.
For many years the Dubai World Cup held the accolade of being the most valuable horse race on the planet, with the winner taking home over £5 million in prize money.
The race is run in March every year over one mile two furlongs on dirt at Meydan Racecourse.
Given the race is run on dirt, a surface particularly popular in the US, many US-trained horses travel over specially for the race. They join locally trained horses along with European, Japanese, and horses from other racing jurisdictions, in a race that has a global following.
There are few better sights than watching world-class horses go toe-to-toe under the lights at Meydan on World Cup night. It’s a sight every racing fan should witness at least once.
US-trained Cigar was the winner of the first Dubai World Cup in 1996.
Since then, owners Godolphin, the breeding operation of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, have won the Dubai World Cup nine times.
Their first win came in 2000 when the aptly named Dubai Millennium stormed clear to win by six lengths for Saeed Bin Suroor and Frankie Dettori.
Street Cry did the business two years later again for Bin Suroor and later became a prolific sire commanding a stud fee of $100,000.
More recently Godolphin’s Thunder Snow became the first horse to retain the Dubai World Cup. Ridden by world-class Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon, Thunder Snow made light work of his rivals in 2018, running out an impressive five-and-three-quarter length winner.
Things were tougher in 2019 when he encountered a game opponent in Gronkowski, who kicked for home two furlongs out. It didn’t look like he could be caught, but Soumillon remained customarily calm and delivered Thunder Snow on the post to score by a nose.
However, the title of most impressive, and probably greatest, Dubai World Cup winner must go to the mighty American grey horse, Arrogate.
The Bob Baffert-trained colt came into the 2017 Dubai World Cup as a Breeders Cup Classic winner and after having destroyed his rivals in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park that January.
At Meydan, he was sent off at prohibitive betting odds as the 1/3 favourite and his supporters had momentary cause for concern when he was hampered leaving the starting stalls.
That meant rider Mike Smith had to settle his mount further back in the field than he would have liked. It made little difference though, as Arrogate smoothly picked off rivals and took up the lead over a furlong out, eventually going on to score by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
At the time that victory meant Arrogate became the highest-earning racehorse in the world, having won over £13 million in prize money.
For any horse race, the type of bet you place is nearly as important a question as to the horse you place it on.
This is because every race market is different, due to the number of horses running and the odds of those horses. Knowing the best bet to place in different circumstances can improve your chance of winning.
Here are a few common horse racing bets.
A bet placed on a single outcome, for example, on one horse in a race. These can be divided into different types of bets: win, place, and each-way bets.
There are two types of forecasts: a straight forecast and a reverse forecast. A straight forecast is a bet where you select two horses to finish first and second in a race.
They must finish in the correct order to win the bet. With a reverse forecast, the two horses can finish in any order.
Much like a forecast, there are also straight and reverse tricasts. A straight tricast challenges you to predict the first three horses in a race in the correct order.
A reverse tricast gives you a few more possible outcomes if you are not confident about the finishing order of your selections.
The Dubai World Cup holds Group One status, the highest category of race. It is not a handicap, meaning all runners carry the same weight.
Finding the winner of the Dubai World Cup, therefore, depends mainly on identifying the best horse in the race.
However, other factors, like draw, pace, and a horse’s ability to handle the surface complicate things.
US-trained runners have won 12 of the 25 Dubai World Cups run since 1996, two more than locally trained winners from the UAE. With that in mind, a good grasp of the US form is crucial when planning a wager on the Dubai World Cup.
American horses often hold an advantage as dirt is their usual racing surface and many of their major races are also held over the Dubai World Cup trip of one mile two furlongs.
Several key American races provide a good form line for the Dubai World Cup.
The Kentucky Derby was won by Silver Charm and Animal Kingdom before they went on to win at Meydan.
The Preakness Stakes, run at Pimlico Racecourse in May each year is another of the US Triple Crown races that can prove a good line into the best one mile two furlongs dirt horses.
Cigar won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1995 before going on to win the first inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup the following season. Curlin, Invasor, and Arrogate are other Dubai World Cup winners to also have landed the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The Pegasus World Cup was first to run in 2017 and provided the Dubai World Cup winner two months later in Arrogate.
UK-based trainer Saeed Bin Suroor has an extraordinary record in the Dubai World Cup, winning it nine times – 36 percent of all World Cups ever run.
He tends to move horses from the UK out to Dubai for the winter season and usually runs them in several races in Dubai before they line up in the big one in March.
Surprisingly given his record in the race, his horses don’t always go off at short odds. African Story returned at 12/1 when winning in 2014 and Prince Bishop was 14/1 a year later.
Backing all his Dubai World Cup runners would have returned a healthy profit of +£23.50.
US trainer, Bob Baffert, has won the Dubai World Cup on three occasions, most recently with Arrogate in 2017.
He often targets this race with some of his best dirt horses and his runners in Dubai are always worthy of close attention.
Speed from the stalls is often far more important on dirt than on other racing surfaces, as it allows horses to get a good position in the field, meaning they avoid getting caught in the kick-back thrown up by other horses.
In the last 10 years, horses that have held a prominent position during the race have performed considerably better than those that were held up. Thunder Snow made all the running when he won his first Dubai World Cup in 2017 and then tracked the leader when winning a year later.
Last season, Mystic Guide always raced prominently when winning, and California Chrome, African Story, and Animal Kingdom were others who raced close to the pace in the Dubai World Cup and emerged victorious.