Archives for January 2016


The winter issue of the United Kingdom edition of Town & Country magazine features a cover story titled “The New Royals, How the Qataris Became Britain’s Ruling Class.”

The essence of the article is captured in the opening paragraph: “Claridge’s, the Shard, Harrod’s…just a few of the crown jewels the Qataris have snapped up. But there’s something different about their takeover of the turf. So why have the Arabian billionaires made a move on Goodwood, Newmarket, and Ascot? And what does it all mean for British racing?”

Two rival groups from Qatar are investing in a huge way in British horse racing and are challenging the supremacy of Ireland’s Coolmore Stud and Dubai’s Godolphin operation. One group, Qipco, is led by the ruling Al Thani family and the other group, Al Shaqab, is owned by the Qatar state. Al Shaqab races over 150 Thoroughbreds and about 40 Arabians in England and France.

What was previously known as Goodwood race course, and referred to as Glorious Goodwood, has been renamed Qatar Goodwood in a 10-year sponsorship deal that markedly augments purses. For instance, the purse for the Sussex Stakes has risen from £300,000 to £1 million. Qipco, a Qatar investment company, is also Royal Ascot’s main commercial partner and sponsors the Qipco 2,000 Guineas Day at Newmarket and the British Champions Series.

Harry Herbert, chairman of Highclere racing syndicates and former racing manager for Queen Elizabeth II, advises Al Shaqab and noted racing expert David Redvers counsels Qipco. Herbert’s ancestral home is Highclere Castle, the location for Downton Abbey of public television fame.

The Town & Country article illustrates how involvement at the highest level of British horse racing is now and has always been a social endeavor as well as a sporting venture. Horse ownership provides an entrée into British high society and even the opportunity to chat occasionally with the Queen. Horse racing, coupled with investments in well-known British properties like the Shard and Harrod’s, buys plenty of prestige.

Titled families in the United Kingdom traditionally dominated horse racing. Then the likes of Robert Sangster, John Magnier, Sheik Muhammad, and others became the most prominent players. The deep-pocketed groups from Qatar have joined the leaders.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business


Minutes before the kickoff of the 2016 National Football League playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers, an announcer casually reported that Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had a separated shoulder, had been injected with a painkiller so he could play.  Imagine the outcry if such an announcement were made during a Kentucky Derby telecast about one of the entries.

Regardless of exposes about NFL player concussions, as in the 2016 movie Concussion, or on-air acknowledgement of pain-medication use by injured players, the NFL rolls merrily along as America’s most popular and lucrative sport.  Horse racing is held to a much higher standard because, whereas men can choose not to play football at all, or not to play hurt on painkillers, innocent horses cannot.

Speaking of drug and medication enforcement in horse sports, the United States Equestrian Federation approved a radical rule change, effective December 1, 2015, pertaining to who can be held responsible for violations of USEF medication and drug rules.  Under the old standard, the trainer was accountable, just as in present-day horse racing.  With the USEF modification, “support personnel” may also be responsible, such as horse owners, grooms, veterinarians, and riders and drivers.

In horse racing, it does not make sense to have a trainer suspended and fined for drug and medication violations, while the owner is free to run the horse involved with another trainer in charge.  Horse racing should consider a rule expansion and at least suspend the illegally medicated horse as well as other parties that can be shown to have participated.  This would have the effect of making owners think twice about turning their horses over to trainers with a history of violations for drugging horses.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business


The December 7, 2015 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse featured an insightful article on horse cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer) titled “Transferring a Genetic Legacy.”  The focus was on cloning in equine sports like jumping, dressage, and eventing.  The author (Stacey Reap) pointed out that the American Jockey Club and the American Quarter Horse Association don’t permit registration of cloned horses, although the AQHA had to survive a legal challenge to enforce its ban.

Particularly intriguing is the potential to rebirth outstanding performance geldings as stallions, such as the Thoroughbreds Kelso, Forego, and John Henry, or sterile champion stallions like Assault and Cigar.

The Chronicle of the Horse article reported that “…Overbrook Farm confirmed that [a laboratory] had cloned their elite Thoroughbred sire Storm Cat this year” for the purpose of eventually siring performance horses.

Following is a brief story that is not science fiction, given the technology that has already cloned Storm Cat.


It is sometime in the future and the American Triple Crown has been won by an undefeated colt that many hardboots consider to be one of the best ever.  His name is American Legacy and he’s from the last crop of the late American Pharoah, who was the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup Classic champion in 2015.

Immediately before the elderly American Pharoah’s demise, a billionaire racehorse owner, Joseph Moneymaker, paid Ashford Stud for the right to clone their animal.  The clone, Pharoah Redux, was the same age as American Legacy and the intent was to use him to sire sport horses.

However, when Pharoah Redux turned two, Mr. Moneymaker began to work the colt in the company of his stable of top-flight Thoroughbreds.  Pharoah Redux easily handled them and he unofficially broke a couple of track records and a world record in doing so.

The problem was that the clone Pharoah Redux was not eligible to run in an official race because he couldn’t be registered with the Jockey Club.

When word of the mysterious Pharoah Redux spread in racing circles and beyond, demand in the sporting world for a race between American Legacy and his genetic ancestor Pharoah Redux burgeoned.  In fact, many racing fans taunted the owners of American Legacy on social media for dodging a race against Pharoah Redux by hiding behind the Jockey Club prohibition on clones.

Finallly, NBC Sports offered the owners of both colts a $4 million match race, to be split 75% to the winner and 25% to the loser, to be held at 1 1/4 miles on worldwide television in prime time in early October.  Nothing like this had ever occurred:  a reigning Triple Crown champion versus an officially unraced DNA replica of the champion’s own sire.

The unsanctioned race took place as planned at Churchill Downs, with Pharoah Redux easily besting American Legacy by six lengths.  Racing historians compared the result to match races between Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral and Nashua vs. Swaps.

The shocking result had the same transformative effect as when the New York Jets, from the upstart American Football League, took down the supposedly superior Baltimore Colts of the National Football League in Super Bowl III.

The match race for the ages indeed had a profound effect on horse racing.  Afterwards, racetracks began to hold restricted races for naturally sired Thoroughbreds and open races for all comers no matter how they were created genetically.


What if it turns out that the aforementioned clone of the deceased racehorse and elite sire Storm Cat is fast enough to possibly defeat, say, the 2018 Kentucky Derby winner?  History shows that the protectionist Jersey Act in Great Britain prohibited the registration of so-called “impure” American racehorses in the British Stud Book from 1913 to 1949.  The act was rescinded because such “ineligible” horses with American breeding were winning stakes races in Europe and demonstrating their equality if not superiority to British-breds.
Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business