According to The Times of London, Sheikh Mohammed is paying heavily. A recent article by Julian Muscat reflecting on the Maktoum family’s boycott of horses produced by the Coolmore stallions, reflected on the price the Ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed, has paid for the stand-off.
Muscat uses as his example the fact that the Godolphin horses are currently experiencing a substantial dearth in positive results at the races, from the current crop of three year olds right through the ranks, and cites as best evidence, the very substantial numbers of horses Coolmore has engaged in the various European classics, and the almost complete absence of Godlophin competitors in the same races.
Of course, when Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers initiated this boycott, they must have been aware that this was a possible consequence, though they might’ve expected it to be less severe than it has been. What was well known to them in advance of their decision to go that route, was the fact that the Coolmore stallions occupy a near-monopoly on the European stallions log, and it was probably axiomatic that any selection against their progeny would mean a corresponding lack of success at the races, unless by some miracle, the alternative options available in the way of stallions were able to throw up a stream of serious competitors.
That was highly unlikely, given the fact that there was a history among the proven sires of Coolmore’s ongoing dominance, and any strategy involving a withdrawal from bidding on the progeny on any of the Coolmore stallions, was bound to open the way for Coolmore to buy those progeny without having to endure the fierce competition of the Maktoums in the sales ring. This was likely to enhance Coolmore’s position rather than hurt it, and some, given that Coolmore are represented by some of the shrewdest judges in the world. The prospects were then that would experience an even greater wave of success possibly even on an unprecedented scale, which is saying something, knowing how strong they had been in the past.
Not all the reasons for the boycott are in the public domain, and several strands must’ve goaded Sheikh Mohammad into it, but the effect has been unilateral. In Muscat’s words, “it is he who suffers, while Coolmore prospers”.
He also suggests that the Sheikh mighth’ve taken heed of the late Lord Weinstock, who some years ago was annoyed with the way Coolmore managed a stallion he had sold them. Asked why he continued to do business with Coolmore, he reported impatiently: “because they are the best at what they do”. Weinstock’s pragmatism is not Sheikh Mohammed’s style. The Sheikh is more Baroness Thatcher: he is not for turning.
Of course, we are reflecting on a snapshot in time, but it is quite possible that the odds could shift with the emergence on the “blue side” of a stallion or stallions comparable to or even superior to those presently at Coolmore. However unlikely that might be in the immediate future, the possibility still exists, and certainly, for the time being, it is equally possible that a shift to racing on a larger scale in the United States, where the Maktoum family have enjoyed considerable success in the recent past with the likes of Bernardini, Discreet Cat, Invasor and Henny Hughes. In that domain, the Maktoum’s have at least one highly proven stallion in Elusive Quality, and another highly promising one in Street Cry, sire of this season alone of seven individual Stakes winners (five at Graded level, including the hero of this year’s running of the Kentucky Derby, Street Sense). A refuge in America for the time being could give the Maktoums the breathing time they would need to resurrect their fortunes in Europe. With their Godolphin operation as widespread as it is, this is not an entirely unfeasible alternative.
For as long as Coolmore’s dominance of the stallion scene in Europe continues (and it’s possible it could endure for many years, given the expertise at their disposal), the likelihood at the races in Europe, is they will retain their ascendancy. As Muscat has already said, Sheikh Mohammed is not for turning. His determination ensures he will sit it out and together with his brothers, and the endless patience for which the Arabs are known, (not to mention their resources) will persist. Muscat’s conjecture that it might not be good for racing in Europe if their dearth of top winners maintains itself, it is probably far off the mark. Anyone who has any sort of intimate understanding of how the Dubains work, will attest to the fact that patience is one of their strongest virtues, as is a will to stay.