Dubai World Cup falls victim to coronavirus pandemic

Horse Racing Dubai World Cup 2019
Thunder Snow (left) touches off Gronknowski in a fierce battle for the 2019 Dubai World Cup at Meydan. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Mathea Kelley

By Jon Lees

Dubai: Days of speculation over the staging of the Dubai World Cup meeting ended on Sunday when the world’s richest raceday was called off owing to the worldwide coronavirus crisis.

Although racing in the UAE had been continuing behind closed doors and a host of horses from America and Japan – plus several trainers and jockeys – had already descended on Meydan, the Dubai World Cup card had looked to be in severe jeopardy following the decision on March 3 of the UAE authorities to ban all major events.

On Sunday, just six days out from the 25th edition of the Dubai World Cup, the official announcement was made that the lucrative fixture would become another high-profile casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This followed the postponement of the Kentucky Derby until September and the cancellation of the Grand National.

The news was broken on the official Twitter feed of the Dubai government in a brief statement which read: “To safeguard the health of all participants, the higher organising committee of the Dubai World Cup 2020 has decided to postpone 25th edition of the global tournament to next year.”

Saeed Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Meydan Group LLC, announced: “Due to the ongoing global health implications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and precautionary measures being implemented by the UAE government, the organising committee regrets to announce the cancellation of the Dubai World Cup 2020 meeting at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday, March 28.”

The Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan was to be the culmination of the Dubai Winter Carnival with a card of six G1 and two G2 races worth $35 million.

Among the star names set to line up were Godolphin’s Benbatl, Chrysoberyl from Japan and Sir Winston, from the United Stakes in the $12m Dubai World Cup.

Ghaiyyath, trained by Charlie Appleby, and Hong Kong Vase winner Glory Vase were due to meet in the $6m Dubai Sheema Classic while Japan’s star mare Almond Eye was to bid to repeat last year’s win in the $6m Dubai Turf against Hong Kong Cup winner Win Bright and Barney Roy.

Horse Racing Win Bright and Tacitus
Grey day: Win Bright and Tacitus at Meydan on the morning the Dubai World Cup card was called off. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

Benbatl’s trainer Saeed Bin Suroor told Gulf News: “Obviously this is very disappointing news, but it’s the right decision as the safety of all concerned is of great importance.

“These are very difficult times and my thoughts are with everyone, not just the racing community, but everyone living in the UAE and also all those who are under the threat of the coronavirus around the world.

“You can rest assured that our leaders and our Government are united in their commitment to deal with the situation positively in order to make our country safe as possible for everyone.”

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