A History of the Dubai World Cup

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The 24th edition of the Dubai World Cup takes place this Saturday at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. The 1 ¼ mile race is worth $12 million, and is expected to boast a field that includes defending champion Thunder Snow. The winner will receive $7.2 million.

The race began in 1996 as the brainchild of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It has been held annually at the end of March since, thanks to a blockbuster first edition that immediately put the race on the map.

American superstar Cigar made the trip to Dubai for the inaugural running, and put his fantastic win streak on the line when turning back the challenge of Soul of the Matter in the lane to cling to victory. That rousing performance paved the way for all future Dubai World Cups, which have been won by some of racing’s greatest stars since.

After globe-trotting Singspiel, who had victories in England, Canada, and Japan, won in 1997, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes hero Silver Charm made the trip. He looked international standout Swain in the eye through the stretch before grimly taking the win.

The fastest and possibly most impressive winner was Dubai Millennium, who took the race in 2000. The special colt, owned by Godolphin, scored by six lengths in a new track record (then held at Nad Al Sheba). He died just over a year later while at stud.

Bob Baffert got his second Dubai World Cup win with Captain Steve in 2001; he’d previously won with Silver Charm. Street Cry took the race in 2002 and went on to be possibly better known as the sire of both Winx (32 wins in a row) and Zenyatta (19 wins in a row).

American-based runners regularly do very well, with victories by Pleasantly Perfect (2004), Roses in May (2005), and Invasor (2007 after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2006). Curlin won the Breeders’ Cup in 2007 before both prepping in Dubai and winning the World Cup, which was worth $6 million at the time and elevated him to $8.8 million in earnings. He ultimately retired with over $10 million earned.

Recently, the World Cup has been a coronation grounds for some of the sport’s standouts. Animal Kingdom won in 2013, two years after he won the Kentucky Derby. California Chrome emulated that feat when taking the race in 2016 with a slipped saddle under jockey Victor Espinoza. Then Arrogate overcame a lot of trouble to win in 2017, retiring later with $17.4 million in earnings.

Last year, Thunder Snow won by 5 ¾ lengths in 2:01.38, which is a track-record time at the new Meydan Racecourse. He will be well-backed again this weekend.

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