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World's richest horse race tops Meydan gala night

DUBAI (Reuters) - The richest horse race ever run caps the official opening ceremony on Saturday of the spectacular $2 billion Meydan complex in Dubai.

Billed as the world's largest integrated racing facility, stand-out features include two tracks, a grandstand for 60,000, a luxury hotel and a marina.

Celebrating the extravaganza, prize money for the Dubai World Cup (1:45 p.m. EDT) has been hoisted from $6 million to $10 million, by far the biggest purse the sport has to offer.

Seven other races on the card boost the total on the night to a record figure for a one-day meeting of over $26 million.

The spectacular opening ceremony includes a cast of 750 performers, vast pyrotechnics and possibly the largest moving projected image screen in the world at 6,725 square meters across 15 projection wings.

These will help wow the capacity crowd as they await the 15th running of the World Cup but the first at Meydan after the move from Nad Al Sheba and the first on the new Tapeta surface.

Rounding off the evening, a finale showcases a concert by the internationally renowned Elton John and Carlos Santana.

Meydan CEO Saeed Humaid Al Tayer has described the launch of Meydan as making a "monumental mark in history." The horses may be even in danger of being overshadowed, at least for part of the extravaganza.

The big race is one of the most open for years with bookmakers in London struggling to name a firm favorite.

French-trained Vision d'Etat, winner of the 2008 French Derby and the Hong Kong Cup in December, is quoted at 4-1.

English raider Twice Over is at 9-2 after a gallant third in the last year's Breeders' Cup Classic to Zenyatta where U.S. trained Gio Ponti (5-1) finished second.

Gloria de Campeao was runner-up in the 2009 Dubai World Cup to runaway winner Well Armed but is a 14-1 chance.

Godolphin's Mastery, winner of last year's English St Leger, is quoted at 16-1 despite having Frankie Dettori on board.

Latest London betting: 4-1 Vision d'Etat, 9-2 Twice Over, 5-1 Gio Ponti, 6-1 Gitano Hernando, 8-1 Red Desire, 10-1 Crowded House, 12-1 Richard's Kid, 14-1 Gloria de Campeao, 16-1 Mastery, 20-1 and upwards, others.

(Writing by Dave Thompson in London; Editing by Peter Rutherford)