Group with ties to Dubai to sponsor WEG endurance event

A racetrack development group in Dubai with ties to the Dubai royal family is now a major sponsor of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, officials announced Thursday.

The Meydan Group, which is building a huge facility called Meydan Racecourse inside a larger commercial development in Dubai, will become the presenting sponsor of the endurance competition, in which horses race over a 100-mile course.

The endurance competition will feature a team headed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, and vice president of the United Arab Emirates.

Sheikh Mohammed is also expected to compete at the endurance test event at the Kentucky Horse Park on Oct. 14.

Sheikh Mohammed's wife, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, is the president of the International Equestrian Federation, the ruling body of the Games. The sheikh also owns numerous Thoroughbred operations around the world, including Darley at Jonabell in Lexington.

Games officials would not disclose how much the sponsorship is worth, but called Meydan one of the "top sponsors" of the Games.

In a statement, organizers called the Meydan development Sheikh Mohammed's "brainchild. ... The culmination of his vision to create not just the ultimate venue for horse racing, but also an integrated city that is sustainable, environmentally responsible and positions Dubai at the centre of the competitive global business stage."

Racing is supposed to start there in January 2010.

"We are honored to be a sponsor of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and, in particular, the endurance competition, a pivotal component of one of the most important equine tournaments in the world," said Meydan Chairman Saeed Humaid Al Tayer.

Although they will not talk about a specific amount, Games officials are calling the sponsorship significant, particularly after they've had a harder than expected time raising money in the wake of the global recession.

"This does help," said Terry Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing for the World Games 2010 Foundation. "With the economic situation the way it is, any sponsorship is valued, but a top one like this is very important to us."

The World Games will take place at the Kentucky Horse Park from Sept. 25-Oct 10, 2010, featuring eight equestrian disciplines. Tickets go on sale next Friday.

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