sheikh mohammed
sheikh mohammed

Sheikh Mohammed

(Photo : Daily Mail / Keeneland)


According to the Thoroughbred Daily News, it was another strong night of selling at Keeneland September, the world’s biggest racehorse auction. But, for the first time in well over a decade, very little of the good news was attributable to the participation of Sheikh Mohammed and his bloodstock agent John Ferguson. Over the years, Sheikh Mohammed has spent hundreds of millions of dollars at September, and the sight of his 747 jumbo jet sitting on the tarmac at Blue Grass Airport was reassuring to many sellers. And it’s easy to see why.

From 1999 through 2009, Ferguson led all buyers in spending 10 out of the 11 years. (Coolmore’s Demi O’Byrne was the lone exception, in 2007.) Ferguson has signed for September toppers four times, including the $9.7 million Jalil (Storm Cat) and the $11.7 million Meydan City (Kingmambo).

His expenditures reached a staggering $59 million plus in 2006 - the year he acquired Meydan City - when he bought 34 horses. And while Sheikh Mohammed’s participation dropped dramatically over the past three years, he still was a major force. Last year, Ferguson purchased 34 yearlings at September, paying $13,980,000 for them. Other operations with ties to Sheikh Mohammed, such as Rabbah Bloodstock, also contributed to the outlay.

But Ferguson’s name has been hard to find on the 2010 results sheets. Through Book 1, he’s bought just two horses, a Bernardini - Victory Ride colt Monday for $450,000; and a Street Cry - Hidden Cat colt yesterday for $200,000. And Sheikh Mohammed, who hasn’t missed a September sale in at least nine years, has yet to make a public appearance.

Opinions as to why Sheikh Mohammed has scaled back his spending are varied. Some believe the ongoing economic woes of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates of which Sheikh Mohammed is ruler, have played a part.

Keeneland’s Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell, however, points to the worldwide expansion of Sheikh Mohammed’s breeding interests as a major factor.

“John spoke earlier this year and said that Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley would not be as dependent on the yearling market as it has been in the past, with the purchase of Stonerside in this country and Widden Stud in Australia,” said Russell. “So it (the cutback in spending) wasn’t a huge surprise to me, and I don’t think it was a huge surprise to consignors.”

Russell thinks there are even positives to the situation.

“I think that, without the strong participation of Darley, it has opened up opportunities for other buyers who in the past haven’t been successful and have been frustrated,” he said. “Now they are able to buy these horses at a level they are comfortable with. I think that’s better for the whole market - more buyers spread over more horses - and there’s more competition.”

Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed’s brother, Shadwell owner Sheikh Hamdan, has continued to be a player at September. Shadwell currently is the second-leading buyer at September after two nights, with six purchases totaling $2,885,000. Last year, Shadwell purchased two yearlings for $1,230,000.