The UAE’s rich equestrian culture is evident in its state-of-the-art racing facilities and a rich calendar boasting high-profile racing events. Horse racing in Dubai is more than just a sport; it’s a cultural phenomenon steeped in tradition, luxury, and high-stakes competition.
Whether you’re a seasoned racing enthusiast or simply curious about the spectacle, Dubai’s horse racing scene offers a unique and exciting experience. With its world-class facilities, thrilling competition, and luxurious atmosphere, it’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
So saddle up, buckaroos, and join us as we take you through this handy guide to horse racing in Dubai!
Quick Jump Links
A Brief History
Horse racing is deeply rooted in Emirati culture and tradition and dates back to October 1981, when a Thoroughbred race was, for the very first time, conducted on a camel track. While the seeds were sown then, they wouldn’t emerge from the ground until 10 years later in 1992, when the Dubai Racing Club was officially integrated. After that, the equestrian culture was in full swing, aided by Sheikh Mohammed’s passion for horses, eventually leading to the very first staging of the Dubai World Cup in 1996.
The grand opening of the Meydan Racecourse in 2010 marked a turning point in Dubai, elevating Dubai’s horse racing scene to international prominence. Boasting a mile-long grandstand, a futuristic design, and a sprawling floodlit track, it could accommodate over 80,000 spectators and allow for nighttime racing. Additionally, it provided a 1,750m Dirt track and a 2,400m Turf track. The racecourse is seven miles from Downtown Dubai and easily accessible by taxi.
The Dubai World Cup attracts talented trainers, jockeys, and champion horses from around the world, creating a truly global spectacle. Beyond the glitz and glamour, Dubai’s horse racing scene plays a strategic role in the city’s global vision and ambitions. By offering a premier sporting experience, fostering cultural exchange, and generating economic benefits, it continues to solidify its position as a major player on the international stage.
The Horse Racing Scene
The crown jewel is Meydan Racecourse, a magnificent architectural marvel featuring a five-star hotel, grandstand, and sprawling track. It is popularly known for hosting the world-renowned Dubai World Cup. Apart from Meydan, Dubai boasts several other racecourses, including Jebel Ali Racecourse and the Al Ain Grandstand and Racecourse, offering year-round racing with diverse styles and distances. The scene here caters to all levels, from amateur riders competing in endurance racing to thoroughbred auctions featuring million-dollar pedigrees.
The official racing season typically runs from November to March. It features a variety of races at different racecourses throughout the city, culminating in the prestigious Dubai World Cup on March 30th.
Here’s a breakdown of the season:
- Meydan Racecourse: This is the main venue for the season, hosting the majority of the races, including the Dubai World Cup.
- Al Ain Racecourse: Purebred Arabian breeds usually compete at this racecourse.
- Jebel Ali Racecourse: This racecourse hosts mainly Thoroughbred races.
- Dubai Racing Carnival: This is a nine-race series held between January and March, with each race offering the winner automatic entry into the corresponding race on Dubai World Cup night.
Dubai World Cup
The Dubai World Cup is the world’s biggest horse racing tournament in the world. It was created by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, and is operated by the Emirates Racing Authority. With a state-of-the-art racetrack and luxurious facilities at Meydan Grandstand attracting a global audience, the event is considered a social and sporting extravaganza, featuring a shiny total prize money, entertainment, celebrity appearances, and high fashion alongside the races.
Upcoming Edition: The Dubai World Cup is scheduled for 30th March 2024.
All forms of gambling are strictly prohibited in Dubai so you cannot place bets on horse races. But, the Dubai World Cup does offer free entry into various games where you can pick horses through the race card, and those who pick correctly in most cases win prizes throughout the day!
Hotels Near Racecourses
Hotels near Meydan Grandstand & Racecourse:
- The Meydan Hotel: Refined rooms & suites in a luxe hotel featuring 3 restaurants, 2 bars & a rooftop infinity pool.
- Citymax Hotel Business Bay: Streamlined quarters in an upmarket hotel offering 2 restaurants, a bar & a rooftop pool.
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Canal View: Refined hotel along a canal featuring eateries, an outdoor pool & a waterfront terrace bar.
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Waterfront: Upmarket waterfront hotel featuring 4 restaurants & a bar, plus a spa, an outdoor pool & a gym.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai – Business Bay: Chic rooms & suites in a modern hotel featuring 2 restaurants, 2 bars & an outdoor pool.
Hotels near Jebel Ali Racecourse:
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City: Contemporary lodging featuring 6 dining options, 2 outdoor pools & a spa.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Residences Dubai Al Barsha: Elegant hotel offering plush quarters, some with balconies, plus a bistro & an outdoor pool.
- Ramee Rose Hotel, Dubai: Upscale rooms & suites in a lively hotel with 6 dining options, plus a spa & a pool.
- Holiday Inn Express | Dubai Internet City, an IHG Hotel: Polished lodging offering a free breakfast buffet, plus an airy restaurant, a bar & a 24-hour gym.
- ibis Al Barsha: Refined hotel with warm rooms & free Wi-Fi, plus a cozy international restaurant & 2 bars.
Know Before You Go
- Dress code: Smart casual is the norm. The club reserves the right to deny entry to anyone inappropriately dressed. This means no flip-flops, shorts, or tank tops.
- Budget: Tickets to horse races in Dubai aren’t cheap, and you should also budget for food and drinks. Consider booking your tickets early, especially during peak season.
- What to bring: Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat (if attending a daytime race), and comfortable shoes are all recommended.
- Respect the animals: Appreciate the dedication and effort behind the scenes in caring for and training these athletes.
- Betting: Although betting is a big part of horse racing elsewhere, it’s strictly prohibited in Dubai due to Islamic laws.
- Enjoy Responsibly: Immerse yourself in the atmosphere, learn the lingo, understand the different race types, and gain insights while you enjoy responsibly.
Is horse racing popular in the UAE?
Horses hold high esteem in UAE culture, with horse riding being one of the oldest practiced customs. This deep-rooted history intertwines with modern-day horse racing, making it more than just a sport.
How many racecourses are there in Dubai?
The 2023/24 racing season saw races conducted at five venues – Meydan Racecourse, Jebel Ali Racecourse, Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, Sharjah Equestrian & Racing Club, and Al Ain Racecourse.
What is the biggest horse race in Dubai?
The Dubai World Cup, held in March, is the world’s richest horse race with a prize pool of $30 million.
Is betting on horse races allowed in Dubai?
No, gambling is illegal in the UAE.