meydan racecourse in dubai
meydan racecourse in dubai

Meydan Racecourse in Dubai

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You can imagine that with Summerhill’s connection with the Ruling Family in Dubai going back twenty years this coming February, our phone lines have been burning with inquisitive pressmen wanting to know the state of the nation. While most of it has already been displayed in technicolor across the television screens of the world, we have a different perspective. Ours is to do with horses, and a recollection of a contribution from the late Sheikh Maktoum’sGainsborough Stud and the present Deputy Ruler, Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stud which, to the degree that they raised the bar in the quality of horses they were sending to South Africa, changed the face of breeding in this country irretrievably.

While it’s not the Arab way to speak out about these things, (which means there’ll be any amount of conjecture), our confident guess is that the UAE in general and Abu Dhabi in particular, will not let Dubai stand alone. That being the case, while it won’t quite be business as usual, we fully expect the Maktoum family’s influence over affairs in the Middle East especially, and across the world as well, to continue, albeit in a more subtle fashion for the time being.

Of course, the doomsayers will claim that Dubai’s dilemma will trigger a second wave of extreme recession, and given the austerity that will flow from the departure of expatriates from the Emirate and the envitable lay-offs that must follow, things will never be quite the same again. You’d be underestimating Sheikh Mohammed if you thought that, and we believe you’d be underestimating the resolve of the UAE as well, to stand together.

Nonetheless, from a horseman’s perspective, it’s the last thing you’d want, notwithstanding the envy their worldwide dominance attracts. We doubt that even their strongest competitors, Coolmore, would see it in anybody’s interests that the Maktoum equine empire should suffer, because that would have implications for the balance sheets of every single player in the game. The Maktoums have not only been central to the creation of records in thoroughbred value, in international auction markets and in the promotion of racing itself, they employ many thousands of horsemen and other personnel in their stud farms, their auction companies, their publishing businesses and their racing yards, across the length and breadth of the world. It would be catastrophic for the industry if this were to come to an end, or for that matter, suffer any measurable diminution.

The Maktoum family’s intervention in racing some thirty five years has altered the course of our sport unrecognisably, and we’re the better for it. We all need to be hoping that things will settle, as the financial press are beginning to suggest, and that the Dubai World Cup for record prize money next March, will take its place at the new Meydan facility as scheduled.

If events at the Tattersall’s Foal sale of the last week are anything to go by, John Ferguson, acting for Sheikh Mohammed, was the biggest buyer yet again in a surprisingly buoyant market, which suggests that at the very least, the Maktoum family’s personal finances appear to be in good order. That said, buyers in general at the sale were as intrepid as ever, best described by Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager, Angus Gold, as “extraordinary trade in an extraordinary business”.