When we reflect on the magic that the Dubai World Cup has evoked over the years, it is hard not to start right at the very beginning of the epic race.
The inaugural running in 1996, with its unprecedented purse of $4 million, took many years in the making after the idea was born to create a horse race that had pretensions to be the definitive world championship.
Set to be contested over 2,000 metres on dirt, the World Cup was conceptualised to attract the planet’s best middle-distance horses, primarily dirt specialists, but also lure and challenge turf horses to give it a try.
And so it did on that eventful Saturday evening at the iconic Nad Al Sheba Racecourse when an 11-horse field, bristling with quality, took the track as the brilliant halogen floodlights shone on them and their colourfully attired riders.
Over 50,000 racegoers, among them die-hard fans, royalty, celebrities, and some curious first-timers, gathered in anticipation.
But nothing could have prepared them for what was to unfold once the starting gates flew open.
Cigar, a super horse from America, who had won a staggering 13 consecutive races, was widely expected to win and while he did, the six-year-old needed to produce the effort of a lifetime to claim his place in racing history.
Despite not making the best of starts, Cigar would rally under his jockey Jerry Bailey approaching the long straight from where he would launch his typically turbo-charged run.
The pair overtook front-running L’Carriere to take the lead, and just when it looked like Cigar would post another imperious victory, a horse called Soul of the Matter burst through from the chasing pack to challenge the American sensation.
Approaching the final two furlongs, it was clear that something electrifying was going to happen. The crowd screamed in anticipation as Cigar and Soul of the Matter raced eyeball-to-eyeball down the golden-brown track, both horses and riders straining every sinew in the bid for supremacy.
The lead would change hands, the crowd would become ecstatic and in what seemed like giant minutes, Bailey would conjure up one more act of gallantry from Cigar to claim a momentous victory.
Soul of the Matter and his jockey Gary Stevens may have lost the battle but the bravery of both horse and rider is not forgotten to this day.
The Dubai World Cup had announced itself on the world stage and the vision to create an iconic race was validated 10 times over.
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