Dubai World Cup: last call for legend of the commentary box

As the 'voice of racing' in the UAE since 2001, Australian commentator Terry Spargo has had a unique vantage point from which to witness the staggering growth of Dubai and its flagship World Cup meeting. Having stepped down from the role after calling Arrogate’s unforgettable 2017 triumph, he shares his reflections in an exclusive interview with Vision Sport

“Here comes the ‘Big A’! Arrogate swoops up on the outside. America’s King Croesus of horse racing went to the front with 200 metres left to go. Arrogate has drawn away from Gun Runner.

“A is for Arrogate, A is for absolute superstar, A is for anointing. Have we seen the anointing of the Man o’ War of the 21st century? Arrogate, a brilliant winner of the Dubai World Cup.”

As American superstar Arrogate passed the finishing post to win the 22nd edition of the Dubai World Cup, a familiar voice echoed for the final time above the noise in Meydan’s magnificent ampitheatre. A comparison with the USA’s greatest-ever racehorse [Man o’ War] and a reference to a Greek king famous for his wealth – as Arrogate became the highest-earning thoroughbred of all time – were typical of a wordsmith who has been describing the Dubai World Cup in evocative detail for nearly two decades.

From his commentary box, Terry Spargo has had a front-row seat to witness the relentless growth of the Dubai World Cup, and having called home winners of the ilk of Captain Steve, Invasor and California Chrome, he ranks Arrogate’s blockbuster triumph as the most memorable.

“With my knowledge of the Dubai World Cup, it’s one of the top two – the other one being Dubai Millennium back in 2000, the year before I started,” reflects the Australian.

“But what Arrogate did was just as exciting. It was certainly the most thrilling and captivating [World Cup] I’ve described.”

That’s high praise from a man who arguably possesses a greater knowledge of UAE racing than anyone else, having memorised horse names, form lines and jockey silks over a 17-year period since taking the role with Dubai Racing Club. And while Arrogate provided the icing on the cake in the headline race, it was also the range of international winners across the card – including horses from Japan, France and the UAE – that contributed to a fitting finale for Spargo.

“You love to see international winners,” says the 61-year-old. “And I still feel that [Dubai World Cup] is the most international of race meetings around the world.

“I think it displays more internationalism that the likes of the Breeders’ Cup [in the United States], the Japan Cup, and Australia’s major races. Dubai World Cup is top of the tree, and so many new horses arrive for the big night – which is an attraction, and something that every racing fan looks forward to.”

The fact that 14 countries were represented across the nine-race extravaganza, worth nearly US$30m across the board, gives credence to this view of Dubai World Cup as the pre-eminent global race meeting, and also pays a major compliment to organisers, with the first edition having only been staged in 1996.

Since then, the addition of new races, increased prize money and a state-of-the-art venue has elevated Dubai’s flagship sporting event to new heights, mirroring the impressive growth of the emirate itself.

“Vacant blocks of sand have become forests of skyscrapers, all in the space of the 17 years I’ve been here,” adds Spargo.

“Dubai has developed unimaginably, and racing has developed with it. Meydan now has a spectacular standing on the world stage, and on the big nights it produces a great backdrop.”

As Dubai World Cup continues its journey of evolution, Spargo’s gravelly tones – which have provided a consistent thread through the race’s brief but exciting history – will be missing from next year onwards, not that the man behind the microphone is prepared to step away from racing altogether.

“I certainly won’t be retiring,” he smiles. “I’m just hoping to find something as challenging and as rewarding.”