x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Victory at Ascot for Olympic Glory signals Qatari intent

Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad’s grey-and-maroon silks have now been carried triumphantly through the archways at Longchamp and Ascot in the past three weeks as the Qatari royal amps up his horse racing endeavours from Europe into England.

Richard Hughes directed Olympic Glory to the win in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images
Richard Hughes directed Olympic Glory to the win in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images

London// It may have been difficult viewing for Frankie Dettori, who was on crutches at Ascot on Saturday, but Olympic Glory’s victory for Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes was the latest statement of intent from the racing operation of the Qatari royal.

Sheikh Joaan’s grey-and-maroon silks have now been carried triumphantly through the archways at Longchamp and Ascot in the past three weeks. Treve proved to be a scintillating winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the first weekend of the month and Olympic Glory slogged through the mud three days ago in Europe’s most valuable mile contest.

The juggernaut looks set to continue, not just through the rest of the international season but also into next year and beyond.

Sheikh Joaan, 28, a member of the ruling Al Thani family, has assembled a strong team for the Breeders’ Cup. Olympic Glory may not yet be finished for the season and could join Toronado in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita, California, in 11 days.

Planteur, twice placed in the Dubai World Cup, will contest the Classic for trainer Marco Botti, who will also send the juvenile filly Al Thakira, who won the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket nine days ago. No Problem Al Maury will represent him in the Purebred Arabian race that is set to feature at the two-day meeting for the first time.

If that band of racehorses is the present, the future appears even rosier.

Two weeks ago, his Al Shaqab Racing organisation purchased 16 yearlings at the Tattersalls October Sales in Newmarket. Top lot was the record-breaking 5 million guineas spent to buy a full sister to Was, the English Oaks winner.

In all, he spent over 10 million guineas.

“We have great stock to come next year – we have good two-year-olds and good yearlings,” Sheikh Joaan said. “Hopefully, next year we can continue this great teamwork.”

The high-fives in the Ascot winners’ enclosure between Sheikh Joaan and Richard Hannon Jr, assistant to his champion British trainer father, Richard, was a display of affection which suggests this is a relationship based on solid foundations.

And like his cousins, led by Sheikh Fahad, Sheikh Joaan is set to make a greater financial commitment to British racing.

“This is an indication that we are in this industry to prove something,” said Nasser Sherida Al Kaabi, Sheikh Joaan’s media manager. “We are now working on a big project. We obviously needed to start buying horses in training first, but we now have the basis of a good breeding programme.

“We have achieved this through a variety of bloodstock agents and Qatari people who have also chosen the horses. People say we have operated mainly in France, but name me a major British race we have not had a runner in?

“We are looking to sponsor races across Britain in the near future.”

Dettori has already missed out on the rides on Treve and Olympic Glory, but even if he misses out on another Breeders’ Cup victory as the retained rider to Sheikh Joaan, he can look forward to next season and beyond with relish.

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