Dubai World Cup 2014 Preview: Will the synthetic Tapeta track slow another favorite and prompt switch to dirt?

March 28, 2014

Dubai, UAE -- The Super Bowl is to the NFL what Dubai’s World Cup is to horse racing: the richest event of the year.  The race offers 10 million dollars in prize money, of which 6 million goes to the winner.

The first Dubai World Cup in 1995 was won by Cigar, the storied Kentucky Derby winner.  Cigar's victory is still celebrated by the United Arab Emirates because it signaled that the Dubai race could attract the sport’s best. In the following 19 years, numerous Breeders' Cup and Triple Crown entrants have traveled the roughly 7,000 miles from the United States' coast to Dubai to compete in this rich event.

Including Cigar's victory, U.S. horses has won eight of the fourteen Dubai World Cups at Ned Al Sheba. But since 2010, when the race moved to the Meydan, American-based horses have struggled.

One exception was Animal Kingdom, last year's winner and horse racing’s answer to a Humvee, who had proven to be a phenomenal runner on a variety of surfaces, including the synthetic track of the Meydan. Bizarrely, the surface of that track has gone from light brown to a wet coffee grind sort of color since 2010.

On Thursday, Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum, the brother of Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, lashed out about the track's surface, leading to speculation that following this year’s race, the surface may be switched to dirt, in part to attract more American runners.


The future aside, there are no American-owned horses in this year’s main race.  Still, a few American-bred horses will contend. Surfer, trained by the UAE’s Satish Seemar, switched from the Godolphin Mile to the million Dubai World Cup on Monday.  Meanwhile, Ron the Greek, the Saudi-trained 7-year-old who was last seen by The DSH at the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic, is past his prime.

The same may not be true for Cat O’Mountain, who is an intriguing possibility with jockey Mickael Barzalona.  Barzalona won the Dubai World Cup in 2012, but that win was from post position 1.  This time he will unfortunately start from post position 15.

The strong favorite for the Dubai World Cup is Ruler Of The World, which was purchased by Qatari interests days before the race. The DSH remains skeptical however about the Irish champion horse, as it has never ran on the synthentic Tapeta track.

If Ruler of the World is held up by the track, he will join a long list of heavily-favored horses who have struggled, and will build the case for a dirt surface, or in the alternative, a resurfacing at the Meydan.

By Joseph Hammond
Contributing Writer for

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