Dubai ruler on horse-buying spree

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Dubai ruler on horse-buying spree
LONDON/NEW YORK: The credit crisis in Dubai that shook world markets hasn’t stopped the country’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Ra­shid al Maktoum’s from buying race horses. Sheikh Mohammed was the top spend­er at the Tattersalls sales in Newmarket, England, on November 27, two days after Dubai World, a state-run company grappling with $59 billion of liabilities, said it would ask creditors for a standstill agreement on its debt. His advisers bought eight foals for a total of $1.95 million for him as stock markets slumped around the world on concern over a default. His biggest purchase was a 260,000-guinea colt sired by Invincible Spirit.

The horse side of the business is the private enjoyment of Sheikh Mohammed, so therefore has nothing whatever to do with the government, or government funds and the restructuring, John Ferguson, his main bloodstock adviser and buyer, said in an interview at Europe’s biggest horse auctioneer on Monday.

The sheikh’s spending this year at the December sales in Newmarket is about the same, as last year, Ferguson said. It depends on the quality of the horses really. The price for yearlings is quoted in English guineas — equivalent to one pound and five pence. The guinea, no longer in use, was the unit of currency often paid to artists and professionals.

The Dubai ruler, who rode in his first race when he was 12 years old and used to share his breakfast with his horse on his way to school, became involved with racing in the 1970s. He developed an interest in the sport when he lived with an English family while studying at Cambridge University in 1966, according to the website of his racing stable Godolphin.

Sheikh Mohammed is now the biggest race-horse owner and breeder in the sport’s history, with about 700 race horses in training, according to a recent report in the London-based Times.

Since winning his first race with his filly Hatta in Brighton, England in 1977, he’s expanded his operations to 7,000 acre of paddocks and 5,000 acre of farmland in Newmarket alone. The Dubai ruler owns a total of 12,000 acres in Ireland, Japan, the US and Australia.

It costs around $33,168 a year on average to train a race horse. His Godolphin racing stable has won more than $20 million in prize money this year alone, up from $3,642 when it first started in 1992, according to its website.

The most successful horses it has produced in terms of total victories are Dubai Millennium, Halling and Kayf Tara, which each won nine races. Still, he’s getting low returns from his investments.

The 141 horses purchased by Ferguson earned on average $48,689 in purse money in races in the Northern Hemisphere through June 5. That’s 4.7 per cent of the average price of $1.03 million the sheikh paid for each horse, a return that’s less than one-sixth the average of 32.4 per cent of initial investment for the 18 biggest buyers.

Ferguson said Sheikh Mohammed’s spending on his global breeding and racing operations is funded by his own private money. The crisis in Dubai has nothing to do with us at all, Ferguson said, as he walked to the auction ring in Newmarket.


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