On the Rails

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 March, 2010, 12:00am

Days before the meeting, Dubai's annual showpiece had the look of a calamity waiting to happen, but, in the manner of great events, the first World Cup at Meydan ultimately lived up to the hype.

Cheap and overwhelming availability of manpower has that effect. The swarming workers, just starting to equip corporate box areas less than 36 hours before the big moment, managed to get the job done well enough that glaring glitches did not occur (with the exception of the silence that ensued when a vocal extravaganza, especially written for the night by a world-renowned composer, was supposed to begin).

Behind the scenes frustrations likewise evaporated. The world's media finally managed to receive press credentials within a good six hours of the first race, when most were ready to launch whatever they thought Plan B would be to get past security and gain access to the course.

The anticipated traffic nightmare into the course didn't eventuate and even leaving it was not the problem feared - though we had the advantage of not waiting for the Santana/Elton John concert. Communications at Meydan seemed to work without complaint. Even the odd story of trainers and connections unable to get hold of tickets into the track dissolved on the night and the racing took over - the part that was always going to be right.

Meydan itself is stunning, absurdly beautiful for a racecourse. The mountain to which Mohammed would go in the famous quote. In the daylight, a monolith where steel, glass and architects' dreams collide. In the evening, an awe-inducing cacophony of lights and hum and triumphant presence. Amazingly, the question was even given breath by some - is this the best racetrack in the world? We haven't been to all of them, but will happily take the odds to saying yes and wait to be proved wrong.

The new tracks, touted as unready even during the lead-up racing carnival in January and February, raced well and consistently - something not always true of Nad Al Sheba in the past.

The movement of people and horses around the complex took place more comfortably and sensibly than had been the case at Nad Al Sheba, too, even if some trainers and work riders commented about how long it took to get around in the desert heat.

One disappointment was the Breakfast With The Stars session - we've always thought these worked better when there were more than just a handful of horses involved. Many trainers preferred to work horses away from the main circuit on a separate track closer to the quarantine area and the Thursday morning before the Saturday meeting was regarded as being a little close to the race anyway.

Yet, if there were omissions carefully hidden from view, Dubai now has until January next year to get them right before racing takes place again at Meydan.