Dubai carnival will only get bigger and better

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong's first foray into the wider Dubai International Racing Carnival (Dirc) last week may not go down as memorable, but there is no doubt the two-month carnival leading into World Cup night is establishing itself as a real proposition for second-tier horses from all around the world.

Now in its fifth year, the carnival continues to grow in stature and Viva Macau and Watch What Happens were not alone in using the carnival as an attempted stepping stone into the big night itself.

Godolphin dominated the carnival ahead of Mike de Kock's team, and De Kock (pictured) himself said he didn't still believe people outside of Dubai were properly appreciating the carnival yet and further growth was inevitable.

De Kock was one of the first to recognise the worth of the carnival and won a lot of races, while the world slowly tuned in and admitted that added competition was not necessarily good news for him personally, but would be good for Dubai.

It caters well for the European and South American horses coming from poor prize money schedules and all that is required for the Dirc to become a real attraction for Hongkongers is a fresh injection of cash for horses looking for an outlet on dirt.

Doubtless that was part of the reason for taking Watch What Happens, who raced for US$200,000 last Thursday - by no means high stakes by Hong Kong standards, but an entree to a US$1 million race on World Cup night if he was able to handle the surface.

The gelding pulled savagely in running so his failure had nothing to do with the surface, but the Dubai dirt is much deeper and softer than the all-weather at Sha Tin - it's the difference between running on the beach on the soft sand away from the shoreline or running on the wet sand down near the water.

No doubt a Hong Kong horse will be found who appreciates the surface and, given that any dirt horse in Class 2 is already running out of options here, Watch What Happens won't be the last to try his hand in Dubai, even if the emphasis on dirt racing there might be changing.

With the construction of the extraordinarily lavish new racecourse and Meydan city development in the next couple of years, the main track will be switched to turf racing with a dirt track inside - the opposite of the current situation.

It seems logical programming might change too, but expect the growth of the event to proceed ever faster.