Change from dirt to turf the way to go

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2007, 12:00am

The magnificent model of Meydan, Dubai's new generation racing-lifestyle centre, contained one very interesting aspect - the swapping of the turf and dirt courses at Nad al Sheba.

Originally, Nad al Sheba followed typical American design, with the dirt track being the main circuit and the turf track being laid on its inside.

Dubai Racing Club chairman Saeed Humaid Al-Tayer said one of the reasons for the change has been that 67 per cent of races at the club's just completed racing carnival were on turf - that's where the demand is.

But it may represent a change of direction for Dubai's visionary leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, and an acknowledgement that turf racing is the superior product. Sheikh Mohammed is a true devotee of the horse, and no-one who loves the thoroughbred as much as he does would enjoy seeing his prized animals come back after racing covered in sand or dirt, grit in their eyes and coughing to clear their airways from the track surface they have inhaled.

There is also the reality of Dubai World Cup night to be evaluated.

The World Cup on dirt may be the world's richest race but it attracted only seven horses, with one, Bullish Luck, never having raced on dirt before.

In contrast, the Sheema Classic and the Dubai Duty Free on turf attracted capacity fields with interest from most major racing jurisdictions. They were clearly the superior events.

Two years ago, the Sheema Classic and Duty Free were boosted from US$2 million to US$5 million, becoming the world's equal-richest turf races, while the World Cup stood still at US$6 million. On reflection, the pattern of thought in the mind of Sheikh Mohammed was already being demonstrated.

Once the Meydan complex is completed in 2010, the World Cup will - according to Sheikh Mohammed - be worth 'at least' US$10 million.

But, we wonder, will it also become a race on turf instead of dirt? In that case, it would become a target for the best middle-distance grass horses in the world, instead of the rich new-year picking for America's best dirt horse, which is what it has become.