The excitement in the lead up to the Dubai World Cup Meeting on Saturday 31st March has to be seen to be believed. Whilst it doesn’t stand alone as the World’s biggest meeting, it ranks as its most cosmopolitan. There are top class horses from almost every corner of the racing globe including all of the Americas, Britain, Ireland and Europe, Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and of course, South Africa. It follows that the meeting is packed with people representing all these nations, and with something approaching US$25 million on offer in the form of prize money, it certainly ranks as the richest turf event in history.

Betting of course is non-existent in Muslim countries, so the whole show is all about horses, and that makes it unique once again. Everybody is here out of love and admiration for this great game we’re engaged in, and for the animals that make it tick. For the entire week we will be around some of the best horses in the world, and while most racing fans will have some kind of understanding of what we’re reporting, you’ll never really know what it means until you’ve experienced it.

mullins bayMullins Bay on his way to his first Group success at YorkThe action started with the post-position draws for the meeting, and we were all disappointed with Mullins Bay’s no. 14 slot. Of course, he has terrific tactical speed, and he should be able to get away on terms, though he will now have to race wide to be up with the pace. Sand is not his preferred surface (The Godolphin mile is on sand) but racing wide will at least mean less “kick-back” in the way of sand. At least we have Weichong Marwing in the saddle, and as one of the best practitioners of art in the world, he’s bound to give him his best shot, even in these circumstances. One things for sure, and that is a stiff pace will suit him, as he is one of those who keeps on finding, and he won’t be short of stamina when the others are stopping, assuming Mike de Kock has him near the top of his game. We know he’s not had the best of preps, but he has a natural fitness, and at a mile, he “could run fresh”. Anyway you have to believe these things if you’re an optimist, and we’ll keep on kidding ourselves up to the race. Don’t forget, his last five starts have yielded a first, a first and three consecutive seconds.

Thursday morning is an auspicious occasion, as the Who’s Who gather at Nad Al Sheba racecourse for what is billed as the “Breakfast with the Stars”. Everyone of the many hundreds of dignitaries gathered in Dubai will be there to meet the jockeys, trainers and owners, and of course the various racing and media personalities from around the globe. Each year the television presenters choose a panel of people to provide their views and expectations for the event, and as was the case two years ago, Mick Goss has been invited once again to participate. The Tellytrack team will be in attendance as well, and there is every possibility these proceedings will be relayed back to South Africa on the Monday evening programme following the World Cup itself, so we’ll see how good these “experts” really are!

That evening our team will be slogging their way to the desert for the great barbeque, (it’s really tough in this part of the world like Africa). This is one of the world’s great party legends. Traditionally the desert is transformed into a great “Sheikhdom” of a tented laager, and nothing, but nothing is spared in the way of food, entertainment and the best of champagnes, wines and everything else the world has to offer. A great number of Summerhill’s most enduring relationships have been formed at this event, and with such a strong presence this year, we’re hoping to bring home a few new friends. Stick with us: we’ll keep you posted.

Before we leave you though, we’re reminded of the inaugural desert braai way back in 1996, when the great South African horsemen, Graham Beck and Laurie Jaffee were invited to take a camel ride by Sheikh Mohammed. Graham Beck might be a great wine maker, but he’s no jockey, I promise! Laurie Jaffee, a Summerhill customer since the gates opened, is no Pierre Strydom either.