Sometimes in life you have to accept that change is for the better. Even when you don’t like it one bit.

This is my relationship with racing on the range of synthetic surfaces which have replaced traditional dirt: I can no longer sustain the argument against them, but I just don’t like watching the product which results.

This comes into sharp focus with the build-up to the 17th Dubai World Cup on March 31. When the world’s richest race was switched from Nad Al Sheba to the gleaming new facility at Meydan in 2010, the surface on which it was run also changed – from dirt to one of the family of synthetic footings, Tapeta.

Synthetic tracks are safer than dirt – at least according to the early evidence – and probably fairer too: horses can win with a wider variety of running styles and there isn’t so much of an advantage from prior experience of the surface.

So, it seems like the argument should end there. And so it does from an objective standpoint. But though the World Cup has gained from the change of surface, it has lost the ability to attract and showcase the ability of great American dirt horses like Cigar and Silver Charm, who did so much to provide the race with an early identity. No doubt you could improve welfare concerns in the Cheltenham Gold Cup by removing the fences, but it would not be the same.

The paradox racing faces is this: the sport derives some of its excitement from the physical challenge incumbent on the racehorse, yet of which it is incognisant and from which it receives no pay-off.

Because a strong gallop builds up on dirt as horses try to escape the stinging kickback, great dirt races serve to elevate horses by dint of their courage, soundness and willingness to embrace the dark side of competition. To derive pleasure from watching may be viewed by some as ethically questionable but the effect is often to raise the victorious thoroughbred to more than it could otherwise be.

Gone is the thundering herd pounding out ten furlongs in two minutes

Synthetics remove the invidious kickback and provide sounder footing for accelerating, thereby mimicing the style of racing seen on grass: most horses are saved for a finishing kick and the early pace therefore is frequently slow.

This last detail is often the one which renders racing on synthetics a pale imitation of dirt. And you need only to consider the results of the two World Cups at Meydan to see that.

Gone is the thundering herd pounding out ten furlongs in two minutes; gone is the need to fixate on every stride, as the attritional nature of the pace knocks out the runners one by one until only our hero stands proud. Alright, it is not exactly the Grand National for the viewer, but the same effect is achieved by a less dramatic cause.

Instead, it’s Gloria de Campeao or Victoire Pisa who carry off the bulk of the $10 million, the latter recording a slovenly time of 2m 5.94sec which would be stealing, not earning, for the likes of Curlin, Invasor and Pleasantly Perfect. Sadly, this unsatisfactory crawl-and-sprint dynamic is all too familiar on synthetics.

It is unfair to say that the World Cup is now a race for grass horses. Into this category fit snugly the two Meydan winners, but this is only small-sample misappropriation. Victoire Pisa was chased home by his countryman Transcend, who has won the last two runnings of the Japan Cup dirt.

No, it is a coarse argument that synthetics militate against dirt horses, which was the same one used after European horses fared well at the 2008 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. When the series returned to the Californian venue the following year, American trainers and jockeys had better adapted to the tactical demands of the Pro Ride surface, although that did not save the track from being summarily dug up and returned to traditional dirt.

When horsemen make a similar adjustment in approach, World Cups to come on Tapeta will be run at a more challenging tempo for the horses. And in the stead of the Americans, who may even return as old attitudes slowly fade, will be greater strength in depth provided by horses from the Far East, Australia and Europe who could not (or would not) compete on dirt.

So, it is time for those of us who love racing on dirt to put our own aesthetic sense of what constitutes a great performance and embrace the safer, more equitable environment of the new era of surfaces. A similar challenge could be said to face traditionalists in Australia who must now become accustomed to seeing the Melbourne Cup overrun by superior foreign-trained stayers (as evidence of the positive effect on the quality of the Cup, note how the winner Dunaden followed up in good style in the Hong Kong Vase).

“It’s life Jim, but not as we know it,” as Mr Spock supposedly observed to Captain Kirk. A similar adjustment is necessary for many with synthetics.