Mixing the ancient and the hypermodern is what Dubai is all about. But nowhere in the sheikdom is the meeting of past and present more thrilling than at the Nad al Sheba race track during the Dubai World Cup horse race. The event's roots go all the way back to the birth of the sport: all modern thoroughbreds are descendents of one of three stallions the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian and the Byerly Turk that were imported to England from the Arab world three centuries ago. "The Dubai World Cup is where thoroughbred racing turns full circle," says Martin Talty, international racing manager of the Dubai Racing Club, which hosts the event. "These horses are racing in the footsteps of their ancestors."
To the owners of the horses, the 1.2-mile (2 km) dirt-track race on March 29 is more than a nostalgic pilgrimage. There is big money at stake the $6 million purse is horse racing's biggest. And the field is the most global in the sport, with horses from the Americas, South Africa, Europe and Asia, not to mention those of Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who owns successful thoroughbred stables in Dubai and Kentucky. This year's favorite is the U.S.-trained 4 year-old Curlin, whose owner resisted the lucrative temptation to send the horse to stud after a stellar season last year and vowed to keep him running through his prime.
Some 60,000 spectators are expected to cheer on the horses in a setting that is quintessential Dubai: a modern track echoing with the ancient sound of thundering hooves.
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