It’s hard to believe, but one of the world’s biggest horse races takes place in a country where gambling is illegal.
That’s right – no one who attends the Dubai World Cup is permitted to wager on the action, since the United Arab Emirates has very strict laws against gambling. Fortunately, those laws don’t apply to the rest of us who live elsewhere, enabling us to bet on one of the most prestigious races in the world.
In case you’re interested in doing exactly that this year, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about the Dubai World Cup in this handy betting guide.
The Dubai World Cup takes place on the final Saturday in March every year at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Post time is generally around 1 p.m. Eastern time, which is approximately 9 p.m. in Dubai, and NBC Sports Network has televised the race in America for the past two years.
The 1 ¼-mile Dubai World Cup is the pinnacle race of the Dubai World Cup Night, which features eight Thoroughbred races and one race involving only Purebred Arabian runners. With a total purse of $10 million US, the Dubai World Cup is the second-richest horse race in the world, trailing only the Pegasus World Cup.
The Grade 1 race accepts Thoroughbreds age four and up from the Northern Hemisphere and allows Thoroughbreds as young as three from the Southern Hemisphere.
You should be able to bet on the Dubai World Cup at virtually any online betting site. However, some books offer more options for horse racing betting than others, including wagering on the other races held on Dubai World Cup Night.
Of course, there are other things you should consider as well when deciding which site to use for betting on the Dubai World Cup. Getting the best possible odds on your wagers is also important (sites will vary on the odds they are offering), and you also want to be certain that if you win money on the event, you’ll be able to withdraw your winnings without any hassle.
We’ve weighed all of those factors (and more) when reviewing the best betting sites out there. Based on our expertise in the online betting industry, the sites listed above are what we recommend most for betting on the Dubai World Cup.
Nearly half of the winners (11 of 23) in Dubai World Cup history have been from host country United Arab Emirates, but American horses have certainly held their own as well.
Led by such well-known Thoroughbreds as Cigar (1996) and California Chrome (2016), horses from the United States have combined to win nine titles. That number increases to 10 if you include 2017 champion Arrogate, who is owned by a resident of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia but was foaled and trained in the US. Other past champions have come from Brazil and Japan.
Also worth noting is the fact that no female has ever won the race. The closest a filly or mare has come to victory at the Dubai World Cup was To The Victory’s runner-up finish to Captain Steve in 2001.
Here’s the list of all-time Dubai World Cup champions:
Meydan Racecourse is one of the most spectacular horse racing venues in the world. Built in 2010, it features a five-star hotel, 72 corporate suites, a racing museum, and a grandstand that can accommodate up to 60,000 spectators.
The Meydan track itself is a 1,750-meter dirt track that has been used for the Dubai World Cup since 2014. When Meydan first opened, the Dubai World Cup was contested on a synthetic track known as Tapeta, but a lack of success by American horses not used to the surface led to organizers reverting back to the dirt surface that Nad Al Sheba had featured since the inaugural edition of the Dubai World Cup.
The Dubai World Cup recognizes three different time records, since the event has been held on multiple tracks and surfaces in its history.
The fastest time ever recorded in a Dubai World Cup race came in 2000, when Dubai Millennium posted a time of 1:59.50 on the dirt track of Nad Al Sheba Racecourse. After the race moved to Meydan Racecourse in 2010, the fastest clocking on its former synthetic surface belongs to African Story (2:01.61 in 2014), while Thunder Snow’s 2018 time of 2:01.38 is the quickest time to be posted on Meydan’s dirt surface.
Well Armed blew away the competition in 2009, winning the Dubai World Cup by 14 lengths in the final time the event was held at Nad Al Sheba.
Making the gelding’s dominant performance even more stunning was the fact that he finished roughly 27 lengths ahead of the second-highest favorite in the race (Casino Drive, who paid 4:1) and more than 30 lengths ahead of 2:1 favorite Asiatic Boy. For the record, Well Armed paid a tasty 10:1.
The field for the Dubai World Cup is maxed at 16 horses, a number it’s reached just once in its 23-year history. That time came in 2014 when African Story delivered as a 12:1 dark horse.
Though the Dubai World Cup regularly attracts double-digit fields, there have been a couple of occasions in which participation dipped under 10.
The smallest field ever to compete in the event came in 2007, when just seven horses lined up. That cleared an easy path to victory for Argentina’s Invasor, who went off as a 5:4 favorite, while four of the other six horses paid 18:1 or higher.
Favorites tend to do pretty well at the Dubai World Cup, highlighted by a four-year run from 2005-08 in which the top-rated horse won each time. There also haven’t been many shocking winners in the history of the event.
In fact, the highest payout for any winner since 2000 was a pair of 20:1 dark horses who delivered in 2011 (Victoire Pisa) and 2012 (Monterosso).
Who says there isn’t home field advantage in horse racing? The winningest trainer in the history of the Dubai World Cup just happens to be a Dubai native, as Saeed bin Suroor has produced the winning horse a record eight times.
Suroor’s latest win came in 2018, when he trained Thunder Snow to victory. He’s also won consecutive titles on three occasions, turning the trick in 1999-2000, 2002-03, and 2014-15.
Legendary American trainer Bob Baffert is the only other trainer in Dubai World Cup history to produce more than one champion, training Silver Charm (1998), Captain Steve (2001), and Arrogate (2017).
Retired jockey and current NBC television analyst Jerry Bailey has ridden the most victorious horses in the Dubai World Cup, claiming titles in 1996, 1997, 2001, and 2002.
Hot on his heels is Italy’s Frankie Dettori, who has won three Dubai World Cups, although none since 2006. No other jockey has won the race more than once in his career.
Compared to other countries, the history of horse racing is quite young in United Arab Emirates, partly due to the nation’s strong anti-gambling stance.
The first Thoroughbred race in the Emirate of Dubai took place in 1981, a three-race event that eventually led to the formation of the Dubai Racing Club a decade later. The Nad Al Sheba Racecourse was opened in 1992, but rules governing how many horses were shipped in and out of the UAE limited the quality of fields that the track could attract. Instead, the Dubai Racing Club made an effort to feature the top jockeys in the world, and its first signature competition was the Dubai International Jockeys’ Challenge.
That competition led the way to the creation of the Dubai World Cup in 1996, which featured a purse of $6 million US. Organizers couldn’t have asked for a better inaugural champion than Cigar (the top money earner in Thoroughbred racing history when he retired later that year), whose victory brought immediate international attention and legitimacy to the event.
Despite Dubai’s anti-gambling culture, horse racing has been a huge hit in the United Arab Emirates. The early success of the Dubai World Cup encouraged organizers to build the Meydan Racecourse, a facility that is renowned throughout the world. If the UAE ever does follow the lead of many other countries and embrace sports betting, the sky is the limit on how popular the Dubai World Cup could grow!
Unless you’re willing to travel to the Middle East, chances are you’ll never have the opportunity to enjoy the Dubai World Cup in person. On the bright side, betting on the event is a way to feel part of the action as well, and online betting sites give us that opportunity.
The Dubai World Cup is also a nice way to ease into the horse betting season before the Triple Crown arrives in May. Our advice is to look to back one of the favorites, then sit back and enjoy what is usually a fairly competitive race in which American horses tend to fare pretty well.