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On your marks: the Dubai World Cup countdown begins

Held annually on the last Saturday in March, the Dubai World Cup is part of a thrilling night of horse races and is considered to be one of the most iconic sporting events of its kind globally.

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The total purse available for the nine races of the night adds up to a whopping $30 million, with the crowning glory being the Dubai World Cup, which accounts for $10m in prize money – making this the richest race day in the world.

As Dubai gears up for this one-of-a-kind spectacle on March 31 this year, here’s everything you need to know beforehand.

A season of winners

Definitely, the most stellar sporting and social extravaganza on the Emirate’s calendar, the eagerly awaited race is held at Meydan Racecourse and features nine high-class races, including six Group 1 and three Group 2 contests.

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The racing season has three main aspects and runs from November to March. It includes a calendar of nine domestic Racing at Meydan meetings, each of which is worth up to AED1m. These run concurrently to the international Dubai World Cup Carnival, which is a season of high-class international race days, with a total worth exceeding $10m.

These racing events culminate with the Dubai World Cup, which owes its existence to the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai.

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At the beginning of this year, Meydan Group released the final number of accepted horses for this year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival: 132 horses from 15 countries are expected to participate in 2018. However, this number marks a decrease from 217 acceptances in 2017 and 181 for the list released in 2016.

The venue

Since 2010, the Dubai racing season has been held on the Meydan Racecourse, built to replace the Nad Al Sheba racecourse, which occupied the same site and was the venue for the races from 1986 till it was shut down in 2010.

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The sprawling Meydan complex includes a museum dedicated to horseracing, as well as a five-star hotel and a nine-hole golf course. When not part of the racing season, it is also known as a venue for top business events and has also hosted mega concert performances by a galaxy of world music icons, including the likes of Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Elton John, and Santana.

Dubai World Cup in numbers

$30m: The total amount of prize money spread across the nine thoroughbred races of the Dubai World Cup Night of races.

$10m: The total prize money of the Dubai World Cup, the final race of the night.

$6m: The total amount won by Arrogate, the horse that came first last year.

1996: The year in which the first Dubai World Cup took place.

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2:01:83: Speed record for the fastest race at the Meydan course, set by California Chrome, an American thoroughbred racehorse who was named the 2014 and 2016 American Horse of the Year.

2:03:84: The time of the winning race on the Dubai World Cup’s debut in 1996. This race was won by the American Hall of Fame thoroughbred racehorse Cigar.

6: The maximum number of wins thus far by the same owner. Fittingly, this record is held by Godolphin Racing, the Maktoum family’s private thoroughbred horseracing stable.

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60,000: The total number of spectators that can be accommodated at the Grandstand of the Meydan Racecourse.

7.5m sqm: The entire area of the Meydan Racecourse

2000m (approximately 10 furlongs or 1.25 miles): The full length of the Dubai World Cup race.