Meydan will give world's richest race the showcase it deserves

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 April, 2009, 12:00am

The obvious passing of an era can often bring on pangs of nostalgia, the reliving of great memories well and truly committed to the history books, even a philosophical regret over life's inevitable onward passage and change.

Yet none of those should have been the reaction to Nad Al Sheba's final meeting where a more proper emotion would have been a dusting off of the hands and real optimism about what is to come in Dubai.

Nad Al Sheba was the stage for some fabulous racing moments as the World Cup meeting sprouted from moneyed-upstart to an annual focus of global attention.

Yet Nad Al Sheba, frankly, was the thing which was disappointing and lacking about the World Cup meeting.

World class racing demands a world class venue and Nad Al Sheba had its limitations - in both its on-course facilities and its tracks.

Viewing at the course was substandard - one of the two grandstands oddly enough faced almost directly down the home straight, almost worthless in terms of understanding what was playing out on the track. The main grandstand - from where Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and other dignitaries surveyed the scene - sat very low to the track and with a kind of three-quarter angle to the action that allowed a clear understanding of the play only in the final stages.

Then there were the surfaces themselves. The turf track frequently displayed a huge World Cup night bias to the inside - three years ago it was an insurmountable bias that produced freakish victories for horses like Heart's Cry and David Junior racing on the pace and hard against the rail. It was often a case of all chance gone for those who drew wide in some of the world's richest turf races.

And, while Well Armed may have been the new Secretariat and 14 lengths better than the World Cup field this year on the sand track, he might not, too.

But Sheikh Mohammed hasn't weaned Dubai off its oil income and transformed it into a massive business centre without great clarity of vision, something well revealed in his guidance of the emirate but also in quotes from him on his personal website, including this: 'Stagnation means regression, therefore you should strive to develop. If you cannot, you should give up your place to others.'

At the coming of Meydan 12 months from now, and the laying of a completely new track in Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed's vision to develop or give it away, will take the first choice. World class facilities and a truly world class racing circuit will be the result.

The good news for Hong Kong racing will be that, as competitive as horses from this part of the world have been to date at World Cup night, they should become more so.

Well done to connections of Lucky Quality for taking the gamble and going there. The reality is that nobody knew - the surface may have been his biggest obstacle, given that the Dubai sand had more in common with a Phuket beach than Sha Tin's all-weather - or he might have got there and been a freak on it. The problem for Hong Kong runners was that nobody really knew until he had tried what is a completely different surface.

When the World Cup moves to the Meydan circuit, an artificial track with the trade-name Tapeta will be laid down instead of dirt and one of the other important changes will be an increased emphasis on turf racing. The outside track - and therefore the main track - will be the turf surface.

Sheikh Mohammed has also said on his site 'quality is not merely an end. It has become a way of life'.

In the new Meydan complex, Dubai is developing a venue to properly house that way of life.