Jewel in Kingdom’s sporting crown Juddmonte Farms eyeing Saudi Cup glory

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Saudi Cup contender Tacitus completes trackwork in the lead-up to the $20 million race tomorrow. (Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Neville Hopwood)
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All five stallions standing at Juddmonte Farms’ Banstead Manor Stud (from left): Bated Breath, Oasis Dream, Frankel, Kingman and Expert Eye. (Bronwen Healy)
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Updated 28 February 2020

Jewel in Kingdom’s sporting crown Juddmonte Farms eyeing Saudi Cup glory

  • Prince Khalid bin Abdullah’s horse ‘Tacitus’ to race at the Saudi Cup on Saturday
  • Saudi-owned Juddmonte Farms has bred some of the most successful horses in recent racing history

When the gates open and the runners and riders get underway in Riyadh on Saturday in the world’s richest horse race, one man will be watching the action with more pride than most.

Prince Khalid bin Abdullah, owner of the hugely successful Juddmonte Farms breeding operation, will not only be closely monitoring the performance of his own horse, Tacitus, in the $20 million Saudi Cup, but will also be celebrating the fact that such a prestigious international race meeting is taking place in the Kingdom for the first time.

Simon Mockridge, director of the UK stud operation, described the Saudi Cup as a “momentous moment” and said that victory in the inaugural event would be “vitally important” to the prince and the entire Juddmonte team.

“I think what we have to remember (is that the Saudi Cup has) an extremely strong field and Tacitus will have to step up to the plate; we’re hoping very much that he can achieve that,” Mockridge told Arab News at Juddmonte’s Newmarket headquarters.

“Prince Khalid’s breeding operation is probably one of the jewels of Saudi Arabian history. It would be very nice if he was able to win the race and I’m sure he and the family would be over the moon. I think being a Saudi he will be very excited to think that they have a race of this magnitude now in Saudi Arabia, and it’s going to create some great waves,” he said.

The Saudi Cup, a two-day meet that begins on Friday at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack, is the latest high-profile event added to the Kingdom’s growing sporting calendar. But while the country only recently embarked on its ambitious program of attracting a host of top-class international sporting events as part of its Vision 2030 development program, over the past four decades Juddmonte Farms has become one of the most recognizable global names in horse breeding and racing.

Founded in 1977 and located a world away from the desert sand of Riyadh in the rolling countryside of Suffolk in England, with further operations and bases in Ireland and Kentucky, Juddmonte Farms has quietly become one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest sporting success stories.

The inexorable rise of Juddmonte, and Prince Khalid, began when Known Fact won the 2000 Guineas Stakes in 1980, a victory that earned the prince a place in the history books as the first Arab owner of the winner of a Classic, the name given to a handful of the most prestigious, elite races in England, Ireland and France.

It marked the beginning of a long and illustrious career for the prince that includes more than 100 Group 1 winners and dozens of Classics winners. According to Mockridge, the secret to that sustained success is down to the building of a highly professional team at Juddmonte and some astute early decisions by the prince.




Frankel is led to his paddock by Juddmonte attendant Rob Bowley. (Darren Tindale, Bronwen Healy)

“I think we have to think back to when Prince Khalid was very active in the market, in the early 1980s,” he said. “He purchased very well, he was advised extremely well and he made very sound decisions. He purchased a lot of good mares and that was his primary focus at the time.

“They were wise decisions, calculated purchases at the time, which he then masterfully guided through wonderful breeding careers. I think globally, if you look at the impact he has had in the 40 years he has been in operation, he’s managed to win every English Classic and every French Classic.

“And to top it all off, he has had in excess of 500 stakes (the most prestigious, and valuable, races, contested by the best horses) winners. So you have to look at him and say that for a medium-sized breeding operation, he has certainly taken the racing and breeding operations to a very high level,” Mockridge said.

Amanda Prior is the general manager of Great British Racing International, which facilitates global investment in British racing and breeding. “It is brilliant to see Prince Khalid Abdullah’s long-serving investment in British racing and breeding continuing to reap rewards,” she said.

“Juddmonte has never had a better stallion roster, attracting world-class mares from all over the world, and will ultimately shape the breed for many years to come.”

It is hard to disagree with her prediction. Juddmonte has bred some of the most successful horses in recent racing history, including the likes of Frankel — the legendary unbeaten horse now standing at stud at the farm’s Banstead Manor base — Kingman, and Danehill, a thoroughbred Mockridge said is “arguably the most important stallion that has stood in the northern and southern hemisphere.”




All five stallions standing at Juddmonte Farms’ Banstead Manor Stud (from left): Bated Breath, Oasis Dream, Frankel, Kingman and Expert Eye. (Bronwen Healy)

And yet despite such consistent global success in the sport, the achievements of Juddmonte Farms and Prince Khalid are still more celebrated outside the Kingdom than within. This is something Mockridge hopes will change when the two-day Saudi Cup meet grabs the racing world’s attention and puts Saudi racing on the map.

He was also full of praise for event organizer Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, and the work that has gone in to bring an elite racing event to the Kingdom.

“We have to look at the race itself and say this is one of the strongest races that has been run for a great many years, so this is a phenomenal achievement by Prince Bandar and his team,” said Mockridge.

“I think the difficulty for them going forward is how they can maintain the momentum …but there is no doubt they have positioned this race incredibly well and there has been a lot of foresight here.

“I think if you imagine there is now an opportunity for a single horse to win the Breeder’s Cup and the Pegasus, then the Saudi Cup and to go on and win the Dubai World Cup, races that are worth nearly $50 million in total prize money, then I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Douglas Erskine Crum, Juddmonte’s CEO, echoed Mockridge’s thoughts about the bright future for horse racing in Saudi Arabia.

“There will always be many challenges in establishing racing and breeding but I have every confidence that it will be achieved successfully in the Kingdom,” he said. “The team that has put the Saudi Cup together is very impressive.”

Mockridge conceded that some were skeptical early on about whether it was feasible for Saudi Arabia to host top-class horse racing, but he said the work done by Prince Bandar’s team has silenced the doubters.

“The wonderful thing for Saudi Arabia is that they have been able to attract such a strong field at the first time of asking,” he said. “There was a little bit of skepticism right at the beginning, but Prince Bandar and his team have been very progressive with it.

“The fact they have been able to build a turf course in such a short space of time — and apparently it’s riding very well — that’s extraordinary to me that they have been able to do that. For most of us, it would take generations to get a track up and running.

“So, I hope it’s a wonderful success for them and I would like to see lots of young Saudi people coming out of that and coming in to invest in European and American bloodstock. I think it’s important for the future of racing.”

Regardless of which horse is first past the post on Saturday, the Saudi Cup marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for racing in the Kingdom. And given the expertise of Prince Khalid, Mockridge and the entire Juddmonte team, their own success story is likely to run and run.

 


Muslim Premier League stars join initiative to help UK’s health service fight coronavirus

Updated 09 April 2020

Muslim Premier League stars join initiative to help UK’s health service fight coronavirus

  • The NHS Charities thanked the players for the initiative

LONDON: Muslim football stars Riyad Mahrez and Xherdan Shaqiri are among 150 Premier League players who announced an initiative to help fund the UK’s National Heath Service (NHS) in its fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

The fund, called “#PlayersTogether,” was revealed in a statement on social media by several of the game’s superstars on Wednesday, including Manchester City’s Algerian striker Mahrez and Liverpool’s Swiss midfielder Shaqiri.

“We can confirm that after extensive conversations between a huge number of players from all Premier League clubs we have created our own collective player initiative, #PlayersTogether, and have partnered with NHS Charities Together in order to assist them in generating and distributing funds quickly and efficiently to where they are needed most,” the statement said.

“It is about we, as players, collaborating together to create a voluntary initiative, separate to any other league and club conversation, to try and help, along with so many others in the country, to make a real difference.”

According to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, alongside Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, the fund will be managed by Manchester United captain Harry Maguire, Watford’s Troy Deeney and West Ham’s Mark Noble.

The NHS Charities thanked the players for the initiative and it was welcomed by the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who had contracted COVID-19.

“Warmly welcome this big-hearted decision from so many Premier League footballers to create #PlayersTogether to support NHS Charities. You are playing your part,” Hancock tweeted after the announcement.

The move follows comments by Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters who admitted the league could lose “at least £1 billion ($1.2 billion)” as a result of the virus and this week suggested a 30 percent pay cut for players, but discussions broke down after the Professional Footballers Association said lost tax receipts would end up hurting the NHS.

The league’s players had been criticized, in particular by Hancock, for not doing enough in contrast with top players from Europe’s other high-profile leagues — such as Spain and Germany — who took significant pay cuts amid the crisis.

Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford acknowledged the criticism his fellow footballers had received and welcomed the initiative.

“I think there has been plenty of occasions, for me personally, where we’ve tried to help but we’ve not helped in the best way possible,” Rashford told BT Sport, adding: “You can get some backlash from that. We wanted to take our time with the decision.”

Other Muslim players from the Premier League have been active in helping the fight against the coronavirus, including United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba who used his 27th birthday to team up with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to raise £27,000 for their work helping the world’s vulnerable children during the crisis.

“It’s my birthday and I’m always grateful that me, my family and friends are healthy. Nonetheless, not everybody is in good health right now. The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting the health and lives of many, including children,” Pogba wrote.

“The impact of a large-scale outbreak, especially on poor and vulnerable children, can be immense.

“UNICEF is helping prevent the spread of coronavirus by supplying vital medical supplies, consulting with communities and implementing prevention campaigns. It is a priority to stop the spread of this new virus, and the misinformation that’s spreading alongside it. At times like this we need to come together.”

Arsenal’s German superstar Mesut Ozil also invited fans to share pictures of them proving they are staying at home with any of his replica jerseys, promising to share the best images on his social media channels and an invitation for two people to an Arsenal match at Emirates Stadium.