There is never any joy in the jarring tones of an alarm clock that herald a pre-dawn sky. An hour later when you are standing track side watching the best thoroughbreds in the world stretching out across a freshly harrowed track you can be justified in your diligence. But it never stops the fanciful thought that just for once it would be nice to sleep in.

The city streets are quiet as you negotiate them, the air still resonating with the day's first call to payer.

Stable blocks defy the early hour, grooms leading lightly rugged charges across the walkways, as within the brightly lit depths of the barns assistant trainers and their superiors oversee the unfurling routine.

The first coffee of the morning will always burn the throat but eases everyone into the usual discussions of previous evening track times, golf invitations for Friday, and who ran second to Johannesburg in the Breeders Cup Juvenile (for the record it was Repent). Before long the sun's rays glance through the shutters and people are rising and stretching and reaching for car keys as the first of the international strings enter the chute leading off quarantine.

The sand is hard packed and smooth down this end of the track, a lead pony rests a hind hoof, media gather at the rails, and cameramen screw lenses into place, the whirring shutters a constant as the first fast work sees Vortex cover 600m in 34.20 with plenty in hand.

Invasor's assistant trainer Trish McLaughlin pauses at the rail, the leather head collar across her shoulder stamped with a brass plaque celebrating her 2006 Horse of the Year.  She leans across to thank former Thoroughbred Times editor Michele McDonald for quoting her correctly the previous day. Those who know Michele smile. Michele's eye for detail is renowned. If anyone will misquote you it won't be her.

The sun inches higher and now you are reaching for sunglasses and wishing you had worn a t-shirt. A large Japanese string complete their work - Admire Moon completing an open canter whilst Victory Tetsuni, Agnes Jedi, Daiwa Major and Fusaichi Richard a hack.

The South Africans worked early so their saddle cloths aren't (alas) in view, and the lone Australian horse that everyone is talking of this morning - Pompeii Ruler - rests after an impressive gallop the previous night.

It becomes a surreal parade of equine Who's Who. There's the English Derby Winner Sir Percy, the brilliant American 6 time Grade 1 winner Lava Man, and the Japanese sensation Pop Rock. Amongst them are French, UAE and South American legends, the hope of an Indian nation, and standing above them all is the statuesque Kelly's Landing.

People come and go, horses steam and sweat, work riders exchange notes with trainers and owners, and by 8.30am as the track empties a dust storm toys with the sand that has strayed from duned heights onto the bitumen. It swirls like smoke at the wheels of the cars that head back from Nad Al Sheba to clog the city's arteries, and disguises outlines of myriad skyscrapers.

Welcome to Dubai.


Post contributed by Katrina Partridge. This is my last post for the Summerhill blog. I resigned from my position as Business Development Manager at Summerhill in January and am on my way to Australia (via Dubai to fulfil my Dubai World Cup commitments with the Dubai Racing Club). I will be working for Arrowfield Stud as of next month.