We had this sport instilled in us when we were young so it is a good fit, says Sheikh Fahad Al Thani.
Qatar brand boosted by sponsorship of British Champions Day
LONDON // Sheikh Fahad Al Thani believes that his involvement in the British Champions Series has helped promote racing in his native Qatar.
The Sheikh's Qipco Holdings was unveiled last year as the sponsor to the 35-race programme that provides a narrative to the British Flat turf season at an elite level.
According to the world thoroughbred rankings, the series featured 12 of the 16 highest-rated horses last season, led admirably by Frankel, the world's best horse.
The racecourse action was broadcast around the world and the Sheikh was surprised at how many Qataris were keen to discuss the sport from Britain with him.
"People in Qatar were telling me that they follow the racing and the series puts it all into context for them," he said at the launch of this year's series in central London yesterday.
"My brothers are getting very much involved in the sport, also. My bloodstock manager [David Redvers] and I are buying for them as well."
Qatar has been heavily involved in promoting sport for the past few years. Sheikh Fahad's brother, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad, was the managing director behind the bid that secured the 2022 Football World Cup for the country. Doha, the capital, is also working towards a serious bid for the 2020 summer Olympic Games.
Racing, however, had a more natural fit, Sheikh Fahad acknowledged, as both Arabian and thoroughbred racing is woven into the cultural fabric of the Middle Eastern state.
The sponsorship of the British Champions Series is in addition to the support given to France's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe meeting that Qatar initiated in 2008. Since then thoroughbred racing has thrived in the country with prize-money reaching a record QR27.5 million (Dh27.7m) the season just gone. And this season was a vintage one for Qatari Arabians, also.
TM Fred Texas, owned by Sheikh Hamad bin Joaan bin Hamad, was one of three Arabians that flew the flag for the country at Meydan Racecourse on Dubai World Cup night last month in the Kahayla Classic.
Under Adrie de Vries, the pair recorded an easy victory by one and three quarter lengths in the world cup of Arabian racing.
It was the second time Qatar had provided the winner, following Jaafer's victory in 2010.
"Qatar has been heavily involved in sport across the world," Sheikh Fahad added.
"We wanted to get our name across in Europe. I think it is working. We had this sport instilled in us when we were young so it is a good fit. The best thing about British racing is the diversity. You go racing in America and the courses are all round. You go racing in Australia and the tracks are flat. Whereas Epsom famously has its undulations, and Newmarket its dip. This diversity is why the best horses are here."
The Sheikh will have around 65 thoroughbreds in training this season. He will be represented on the opening two days of the series at Newmarket on the first weekend of next month by Dunaden, the Melbourne Cup winner, and Lightening Pearl.
Dunaden, trained by Mike Delzangles in France, is set to start in the Jockey Club Stakes, a Group 2 run over 1m 4f on May 5. Lightening Pearl has been entered in the 1,000 Guineas the next day by the trainer Ger Lyons, and should clash with Godolphin's Discourse and Lyric Of Light.
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