Meydan, A Place Like Never Before

By Andre Gonzaga

Meydan Racecourse

The word Meydan describes a meeting place where people come to discuss, compete and achieve. An environment that encourages competition and co-operation to live side by side in harmony. A habitat created to promote endeavour, excellence and fair play in sport, commerce and life. Meydan, a place like never before.

Nad Al Sheba has been good for the sport. Right now, it is just getting better. And in another three years' time, Nad al Sheba will be a top-class facility - arguably the best according to officials - for horse racing in the world. And all this, due to the far-sighted vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who wants to put Dubai firmly on the international map using sport as a vehicle.

A day before the prestigious Dubai World Cup, Shaikh Mohammad stunned everyone when he unveiled 'Meydan' - simply meaning 'a new challenge' - to the world. The announcement of the ambitious project could not have come at a better time. The focus of the entire world was on Dubai leading up to the Dubai World Cup weekend as Discreet Cat sought to challenge Invasor to see who would be crowned as the best horse in the world.

And if the race itself has promoted Dubai, Meydan will definitely do a great deal more to ensure Dubai gets its due share of horse racing glory.

Shaikh Mohammad dreams big and this project is a testament to this. The mere size and vastness of the project matches Shaikh Mohammad's vision. The project was unveiled in a presentation by Shaikh Mohammad in the presence of Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman of Emirates Group, a day before the 2007 Dubai World Cup. The project will house a maximum of up to 80,000 race-going fans and will include a parking facility for up to 10,000 cars. The state-of-the-art horse racing city will include luxury hotels and a sky bubble restaurant, entertainment clubs, a concourse plaza, iconic towers and a boat-house. A world-class hotel, over 10 restaurants a relocated Godolphin gallery, the Dubai Racing Club, a museum and a four-kilometer canal which will run from the Dubai Creek to the racecourse.

Meydan City

Spread over a total area of 76 million square feet, the Meydan horse city will also include dirt and a turf racetrack, new stables and training tracks and receiving barns. The main feature of the new facility will be a world-class grandstand, spanning a kilometer and located just a stone's throw away from the present one at the Nad Al Sheba Club.

The finer details of the new facility were announced on World Cup day by Saeed Al Tayer, Chairman of the Dubai Racing Club just minutes before the start of racing on Super Saturday in Dubai. "We wanted to develop a world class facility and I cannot think of any other race course in the world that will rival it," Al Tayer said at the formal announcement. Al Tayer further stated that Shaikh Mohammad gave the green light for the project during last year's Dubai World Cup.

"This is going to be home to the business community, owners, trainers and riders. You name it - it will encompass everything," Al Tayer said.
The creation of Meydan is bound to have an impact with other sports facilities in the emirate. The most immediate one could be the relocation of the Dubai Country Club – one of the oldest golf sand courses in the region and the Dubai Exiles Rugby Club – home to the annual round of the IRB Dubai Rugby 7s. “Such things are bound to happen,” Al Tayer stated at the announcement of the project.

“We have to keep the larger picture before us. We wanted to develop a world-class facility and I cannot think of any other racecourse in the world that will rival it. I believe Meydan is not just for Dubai, but it’s for the whole world,” Al Tayer stated.


Meanwhile, racing at Nad Al Sheba will continue uninterrupted and the Dubai World Cup is expected to move into its new home in 2010 with the current prize money of $6 million being hiked to nearly $10 million by then.

A day before Invasor and Discreet Cat went head to head for the top prize in the $6million Dubai World Cup, Shaikh Mohammad chose to present Meydan to the world, reaffirming the dominance of Dubai around the world.

Falcon Park at Sunset

"As we are setting the benchmark in terms of world-class facilities, we want to complement that with increased prize money of $10 million to entice the best horses in the world for the opening of Meydan for the 2010 Dubai World Cup," Al Tayer insisted.

The design and master plan for the new facility is by renowned architects TAK, which over the past decade has won several awards and commendations while pioneering new developments in Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan and Dubai.

The company's Managing Director Teo A. Khing was only too excited about this project. "The design as you approach the track is of a falcon, which is a defining symbol of the local heritage and denotes decisiveness and speed. The racing facilities will be outstanding, but it's not just for the season. We want to maximize entertainment all year around. It can stage conferences, concerts, functions, and carry on through the off-season," stated Khing.

This concept of racing will take the sport to a completely different level. Race meetings over the weekends will no longer be the same. Horse owners and trainers from other parts of the world have already been looking at Dubai very keenly. The South Africans have been at it for the past four years or so with trainer Mike de Kock leading a group.

The South Americans have suddenly started finding a lot of appeal racing in Dubai. The Japanese too have not been too much of an exception and they fielded as many as eight runners in various races held on Dubai World Cup night. Of late Indian horses too have seen Dubai as a market where they can race and start winning.

Crescent Roof Close Up

Perhaps, Khing summed it up all so well. “Meydan is an Arabic word that means where people congregate and race, so it is a combination of definitions, but at the end of the day, it is about where people go and race and achieve results. I believe Meydan is not just for Dubai, but it's for the whole world," he said.

And, Dubai Racing Club CEO Frank Gabriel Jr., said: "We have taken into account feedback from all aspects of the industry - race goers, trainers, jockeys, our partners, sponsors, other racecourses - everyone - in making this racecourse the magnificent development it will be."
The racetrack surfaces are designed by the Joseph H King Company, which has been involved in the design and construction of the dirt tracks at most major racing facilities in North America since the 1980s.

World Cup thrill

Though there was so much attention focused on Meydan, there were thrills aplenty as Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Invasor ridden by Fernando Jara turned on the heat and won the world’s richest horse race at the Dubai World Cup. Much was expected of his immediate challenger Discreet Cat, but the Godolphin runner turned out at the back of the pack, and it was Premium Tap who gave off his best till the very end to hold on to a gallant second place.

Till then, the Dubai World Cup had been billed as a two-horse showdown between Invasor and Discreet Cat – the former lived up to the challenge, while the latter did not know what went wrong.

It was the John Kimmel-trained Premium Tap, who was a long-time loading at the gate, who set the pace with Saudi challenger Forty Licks and the Hong Kong challenger Bullish Luck racing in third. Invasor, Vermilion and Kandidate raced in mid division, with Frankie Dettori apparently content to settle Discreet Cat in the rear.

However, on the turn for home Fernando Jara could be seen to be improving his position on Invasor and locked horns with Premium Tap for a duel that he finally won in the final hundred yards of a pulsating race, and Discreet Cat was no where in sight. Bullish Luck, trained by Hong Kong’s Tony Cruz, hung on well for third, delighting both his trainer and his jockey Brett Prebble with his game performance in his first ever race on dirt.

But the world’s richest race was all about Invasor – owned by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum - and for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who was winning the race he most wanted to win for his owner.

“Shaikh Mohammad hired me in 1993, but it was Shaikh Hamdan who adopted me. He’s been like family to me,” said McLaughlin, who is a four-time champion trainer in the UAE during his 10-year stint.

In the end it was about horse, trainer and jockey and the ability of the three to manage conditions on the night of the race…it was the better horse that won.

Project: Meydan - a Horse Racing City

Total area: 76 million square feet

Tracks: 1,750 metre (8.75 furlongs) dirt and 2,400 metre (12 furlongs) turf courses

Design and Masterplan: TAK

Grandstand design: TAK

Racetrack: The Joseph H. King Company Ltd.

Capacity: Seating 50,000 and total will be 80,000

Total parking spaces: 10,000

Set date for completion: 2010


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