The prestigious Dubai World Cup meeting, scheduled to take place at Meydan on Saturday, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It had been expected to take place behind closed doors, with appropriate measures in place.
However, despite many of the participants taking part in routine exercise on the Meydan track as normal on Sunday morning, it was announced in the early afternoon the card had been postponed.
A statement issued by the government of Dubai’s media office read: “To safeguard the health of all participants, the higher organising committee of the Dubai World Cup 2020 has decided to postpone the 25th edition of the global tournament to next year.”
Saeed bin Suroor, who has won the World Cup nine times already and was set to field the favourite this year in Benbatl, agreed with the decision.
He told PA news agency: “This is happening all over the world, including England, and I think it is in the best interests of keeping everybody very healthy.
“The health of everybody has to be the number one priority now, for everybody.
“We have to put this into perspective. What is happening around the world is shocking, and the government has made the right decision to look after people.
“We just have to hope this thing clears up as quickly as possible. It will take time, but hopefully, all around the world, people get better.
“For our sport, that is so important as we need our horses to run – that means everything for us – but at the same time we have a responsibility to look after our people.”
Bin Suroor divides his time between Dubai and the UK, but is not thinking of his own return yet, he is more concerned about the whereabouts of his horses.
“Travel has not been banned as yet, but I still have horses here so until I know what is happening with them I won’t be going back to Newmarket.
“It is a real shame for Benbatl. He was favourite for the World Cup having run so well in Saudi Arabia. Who knows where we’ll be in a year.
“It is just a horse race, though, and we have to follow the rules – whatever we have to do to help the situation, we will do it.”