The 2008 Dubai International Racing Carnival starts on Thursday with a record number of top-rated horses set to compete in the world's most international festival of racing.
The first of 10 meetings gets underway this week with the opening rounds of the Maktoum Challenge, culminating with the Super Thursday fixture on March 6, which then leads into the biggest day of racing in the global calendar, the Dubai World Cup meeting, staged on March 29.
Prize-money of more than US$31million will be on offer at Nad Al Sheba during this period.
An impressive 36 per cent of all horses accepted for the Carnival are rated 105 or above - the international parameter for a horse who is Group class - which is six per cent up on the previous year.
Of the 263 horses who were accepted, there are 23 individual horses who were successful at Group 1 level in 2007, compared to 18 the previous year.
Nineteen countries are due to be represented in the Carnival and some star names to look out for include Youmzain, Eagle Mountain, Oracle West, Quijano, Asiatic Boy, Linngari, Yellowstone, Sushisan, Majestic Roi, Halicarnassus, Latency and Kildonan.
Dubai Racing Club CEO Mr Frank Gabriel Jr said: "Judging by the horses accepted for this year's Carnival, which starts on Thursday, the 2008 renewal will be the best yet.
"In total, the Dubai Racing Club has accepted applications from 94 trainers spanning 19 countries and the Carnival will look to build on the success of last year's event which was hailed as a truly groundbreaking spectacle.
"The top-class action and wide international representation means the spotlight of the racing world will be firmly fixed on Nad Al Sheba over the next 10 meetings before the season culminates with the Dubai World Cup meeting on March 29.
"Of course, this wonderful event would not be possible without the kindness and generosity of our much-valued partners.
"Our sponsors for the Dubai International Racing Carnival include Derrinstown Stud, DUBAL, Shadwell Farm USA, Gulf News, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Etisalat, Al Tayer Motors and Shadwell Estate UK, plus the Carnival's official airline, Emirates, and the Dubai Racing Club is indebted to their support."
The format for the Carnival remains largely the same, although Super Thursday on March 6 is now staged a week later than in previous years, to mark the finale of the Carnival before the Dubai World Cup meeting.
The Super Thursday fixture started out as a dress rehearsal for the US$21 million Dubai World Cup meeting, with the race conditions mirroring those of the big day itself.
But it has now grown into one of the top international fixtures in its own right, and last year saw two winners in Asiatic Boy and Quijano, who went on to even greater feats, with the former triumphing the UAE Derby, and the German star winning his country's premier race.
Off the track, the second and third editions of the BurJuman Fillies & Fashion, the Carnival Style Stakes and the Super Thursday Style Stakes, will be staged at the race meetings on February 28 and March 6, with nearly AED70,000 of prizes to be won.
The Best Dressed Lady competition is the feature prize on both nights, and includes a three-day stay for two, with return flights, courtesy of Chiva Som in Thailand and the Dubai Racing Club, and BurJuman shopping vouchers to the value of more than AED10,000.
There are also prizes on offer for the Best Dressed Couple and Best Hat winners, making the event a must-attend in the social calendar.
There will be added interest this Carnival too, with the revamped Pick 7 competition, which with its anticipated weekly rollovers, will mean players will have the chance to win big.