DUBAI // Elegant, beautiful and quirky. It was not just the thoroughbreds who were described that way yesterday at the Meydan race course. For the hundreds of fashionistas who had flown in from all over the globe to be a part of the world's richest horse race, winning those titles was a matter of prestige.
At the 2011 Dubai World Cup, the glitz and glamour was as important as the races that had enthusiasts cheering for more than 100 horses from 18 countries.
When the Apron Views, the location between the tracks and the Meydan Grandstand, opened to racegoers at 2pm, women wearing hats of all shapes and sizes and men in smart suits filled the galleries to watch their favourites on the field and strut their stuff for the shutterbugs off it.
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Cedikova Lucie, who travelled from the Czech Republic for the race meeting, decided to wear a simple champagne-coloured dress, complemented by a small, black laced hat this year, even though, she said, big and bold is her style.
"But you need to be realistic when travelling to another country," she said. "You cannot bring big hats, so this was the better option."
She said she had picked out the attire in Prague, specifically for the World Cup event.
But for many others, the more outlandish the hat, the better the chances of being picked for the Style Stakes. Shedding all inhibitions for one day, Susan Sauer, a marketing professional from Germany, decided to team up her outfit with a bird's nest hat.
"I take part in the fashion competition every year," said Ms Sauer, who travels to the race every March. She said she crafted the hat herself.
"I have won a few in the past and am hoping my birds nest with the two small birds made of straw and features on either side catches the judges' attention."
Stephanie Khouy, 31, was also vying for the best hat with her over-the-top hat made of large discs.
"The hat is made of discs that are played in clubs and I think it is quite original but the competition is tough," she said, pointing out another competitor wearing a hat that looked like an ice cream sundae.
While the socialites mingled at the Irish Village and Bubble Lounge, many families walked towards the ceremony stage to get a glimpse of the horses and their owners in the parade of nations that began around 4pm.
David Tobias, 41 who said he has never missed a World Cup, brought his children for the first time and said he would be staying till the very end. "We will be here till Sunday morning," he said, chuckling. "The kids will be tired at school but its an event that comes only once a year."
He said his daughter Sophie, who was dressed in a white frock and a small hat to match, is a rider and was enjoying the event.
"This is an opportunity for her to see the finest from around the world," he said.
Mr Tobias, who has been in the UAE for 20 years, was cheering for Frankie Dettori, the jockey who led SkySurfers to victory in the third race of the day. "When Frankie gets a decent ride, he is hard to beat," Mr Tobias said.
A keen follower, Mr Tobias said Meydan was to him the best racing venue. "The standards of the facility makes it the finest race track in the world, hands down."
International performances, including jugglers, men on stilts and traditional Arabic dances filled the entertainment gaps between races, something 37-year-old Khalid Mohammed, from Abu Dhabi, said his family always looks forward to.
"I come here for the races but for my family it is a good outing," said Mr Mohammed who brought a picnic basket and mats. "We came early so that we would get a good spot."
A first-time visitor to the Dubai World Cup, Robert Cecil, who travelled from Bahrain, said he was impressed by the grandeur around him. "I come from England where there is a lot of horse racing but this is on a much wider scale and it is very well planned."
In the evening, the race with the highest stakes, the Dubai World Cup that was worth US$10 million (Dh36.7m) was opened with a fireworks display and a theatre performance. It was won by Japan's Victoire Pisa.
Celebrations went on late into the night, with headline musical acts by the English singer Jessie J and DJ Seb Fontaine.