Whilst the Supreme Court was poised to deliver Article 50 last Tuesday, it seems the world of horse racing still had plenty to celebrate. Claridge’s played host to some of the greatest names in racing, for the Longines World’s Best Racehorse award and the World’s Best Horse Race. It is marvellous to see that England remains at the heart of the industry with one of the most prestigious awards event held in London
Leading Racehorse trainers, owners and socialites flew from every continent especially for the event- some staying just 24 hours before hopping back on their private jets. The event was coordinated by Swiss watch-maker Longines, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) together with the British Horseracing Authorities. The connections of the three winning horses were all in attendance having travelled from as far afield as Queensland, Australia and California.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic was named the Longines World’s Best Horse Race but Royal Ascot was also included in the line-up. The award recognises the highest-rated Group 1 international race, with the ratings of the top four finishers in each race serving as basis for the assessment. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is a Grade I race for 3-year-olds and upwards and remains one of America’s most distinguished sporting events.
Horse of the Year went to Arrogate, last year’s winner of the Breeder’s Cup Classic. The four year old colt is trained by California based American Bob Baffert and owned by Prince Khalid Bin Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms. The British connection is that of Lord Teddy Grimthorpe who is. At the heart of the successful Juddmonte enterprise is British racing doyen, Lord Teddy Grimthorpe who is Prince Abdullah’s Racing Manager and in charge of all the Saudi Royal’s extensive racing interests. Lord Grimthorpe was instrumental in finding and securing the purchase of Arrogate, as a yearling in the Kentucky sales.
Arrogate is the second American winner of the Longines World’s Best Racehorse award, after American Pharoah topped the rankings last year. The announcement means that Baffert becomes the first trainer to win the Longines World’s Best Racehorse award twice. In 2015 Baffert was the first trainer to win the Triple Crown in 37 years and has been the leading money-winning trainer in the United States four times.
Baffert feels there is much more to come from Arrogate. This precociously talented colt reinforced Baffert’s belief by winning the world’s richest horse race, the $12 million inaugural Pegasus World Cup, just days after his Longines title. “He has never been a difficult horse to train. I had to be really careful with him, not to let him days after go too fast too early because he was the kind of horse that if he did, he would get a little stirred up.
The likes of Sir Michael Stoute, Richard Hannon and Aidan O’Brien can breathe easy for now as Baffert has no plans to test his skills on British turf. “I have no grass horses, we are set up strictly for dirt” he explains. “Although I’m very competitive, so if I had some turf horses, I would come. And of course if the Queen asked me to come to Royal Ascot and ride in her carriage, I’d be there in a heartbeat.”
Lord Grimthorpe notes that Arrogate is another testament of the success of Prince Khalid’s Juddmonte racing operation, whereby horses for the American racing circuit are principally bred on US soil and only from the very best breeding lines.
“Arrogate was bought as a yearling but 98% of Juddmonte horses are homebred. Prince Khalid has stud farms in England, Ireland and Kentucky and raises and races his own horses primarily”.
In the bloodstock industry the most dominant stallion for the last 15 years has been Galileo, whose father was the infamous Sadler’s Wells was the leading stallion in Europe. Galileo is in his later years which will begin to affect fertility so there is much hype around the world as to who will fill his hooves. Sheikh Mohammod has Dubawi who looks a strong prospect but perhaps one of the most thrilling horses of the last decade is the great Frankel who remained unbeaten in his 14 race career. Frankel who commands a stud fee of £125,000 is also owned by Juddmonte and the son of Galileo. “His first crop looks incredibly exciting and he was leading sire in the world” explains Lord Grimthorpe of Frankel, whose first foal sold at auction for £1.15 million in June 2014.
“Bloodstock industry is a very interesting but strange dichotomy of events and people” says Lord Grimthorpe. “At global, international level it is very strong- the quality of it is very good and the competition is exceptional, even at the highest level because now, in terms of global entities you have a large proportion of Middle Eastern Royalty Prince Khalid, the Maktoum family, John Magnier and the Coolmore group and now the emerging entities of the Qatari’s all playing major parts in investing in racing” he says.
According to Lord Grimthorpe, at grassroots, in this country it still needs to develop further, especially the levels of prize money. “But the excitement, the prestige and the quality of British bloodstock probably has never been better in terms of excitement and class” he adds. “We just need to keep on upping our game”.
The bloodstock industry across the world has changed in recent decades. Originally top class horses raced in Europe and then went to stand as breeding stallions in the States and then with the advent of Coolmore- Richards Sangster and Vincent O’Brien and then the Maktoum’s and Prince Khalid they started standing the best horses in Europe so there wasn’t so much inter-breeding with American horses.
Much of American racing takes places in dirt tracks rather than the manicured turf that plays the significant part in British and European racing. “The dirt programme in America is now very strong and we (in Europe) has turf orientated mares” says Lord Grimthorpe. “So in order to maintain a good presence in the United States, Prince Khalid decided he wanted to refocus on that so started buying some yearlings that would be suitable to race on the dirt and Arrogate is the fantastic result of that.”
For individuals interested in investing in bloodstock, Lord Grimthorpe advises that a business mind is key. “I always say to people coming in at the highest level. If you apply the same merits and ideas that has made you successful in your other business and apply them to racing and really analyse who you achieved that, then there’s no reason why you can’t do it in racing.”
“You can’t have much fun with stocks and shares whereas a horse, there is the emotional attachment. It takes you to different parts of the world, gives you plenty of excitement. Brings you into contact with a whole load of extraordinary people. There’s more to it than just the plain investment. For the HNW, he or she is competing with fellow individuals of that ilk and that brings a whole new and fiercely competitive dimension to the sport.”