|Pat Cummings enjoys mingling with the international crowd of horseracing enthusiasts in Dubai.
This spring, I traveled to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It wasn’t work, and it wasn’t a vacation; it was more of a journey.
For the last eight years, I have maintained a working hobby in the thoroughbred horseracing industry. Most recently, I have been the international editor for RacingDispatch.com, and my trip to Dubai coincided with the world’s richest day of horseracing, the seven-race, $21.25 million Dubai World Cup at Nad al Sheba Racecourse.
While the trip entailed blogging for RacingDispatch.com, I also was a correspondent for two horseracing radio shows—Thoroughbred Connection, based in San Diego, and Radio Trackside, a 26-network conglomerate of New Zealand-based stations.
I spent four years at Dickinson broadcasting Red Devils football and basketball for WDCV and have announced horseraces at Philadelphia Park, on occasion, since 1999. Yet, providing race analysis for an international audience was a fresh, somewhat invigorating, experience.
Horses based in four countries, bred on five different continents, won the seven races. America’s 2006 Horse of the Year, Invasor, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, won the evening’s featured race. The champion was bred in Argentina, raised in Uruguay, trained in the United States, ridden by a Panamanian-born jockey, and raced by the deputy ruler of Dubai. You might be getting just the slightest idea of the international diversity the Dubai World Cup represents.
I mingled with media representatives from far and wide. Indian writers were on hand to cover Mystical, the winningest horse ever to emerge from the subcontinent.
Japanese broadcasters and writers crawled the grounds with aplomb, flattering their entries at every opportunity. A German superstar, Quijano, came to Dubai having won 10 consecutive races and, with him, an entourage of reporters from the deepest corners of Bavaria. Australia’s Pompeii Ruler sauntered the grounds of Nad al Sheba basking in the glow of the picture-perfect racing conditions. His owners spotted me observing morning workouts and asked how I liked their colt’s chances.
From the spotless grandstands of Nad al Sheba, those in attendance flew as many flags as the horses and their owners. I took my spot nestled in a corner of the Maktoum Terrace, South African tourists to my left and a railing separating me, to my right, from the royal box of the UAE’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. A crowd of 50,000 packed the venue, many sporting the finest and latest fashions from their home countries. Yet it would be some 60 miles south of Dubai where my desert epiphany would emerge.
Dubai is the finance capital of the Middle East; skyscrapers rise at a blistering pace. It is estimated that one of every six cranes in the world is located in the emirate, which is roughly the size of Rhode Island. Lacking much in the way of historical attractions, Dubai has made the desert a major tourist attraction in the form of “desert safaris.” When in Dubai …
Off to the desert I went for a round of dune bashing, soon followed by the requisite nausea, the product of a real-life roller-coaster ride. Just days after Iran retained 15 British soldiers for an alleged illegal incursion, I was joined in my SUV by two Britons and two Iranians. The international political squabbles grabbing headlines were absent on this windy day.
We retired to a camp in the middle of absolutely nothing where we met up with other safari-goers. I met with Kenyans and Uzbeks, Lebanese and Lithuanians.
Approximately 100 people from all corners of the world had gathered in peace to trek through the desert and share a traditional Arabic barbecue.
The language barrier was occasionally thick, but the setting was perfect.
Dickinsonians are encouraged to “engage the world.” In Dubai, you can’t help but let the world engage you.
Pat Cummings ’02 was a policy-studies and political-science major. He travels the United States as a retirement education specialist for The Vanguard Group and maintains his working hobby in horse-racing.