Marwan Koukash is not a man lacking in ambition. “I want to own 200 horses, win 100 races in a season and be in the top five owners,” he tells Tim Richards in a superb Talking To. “Currently I am in the process of trying to find a yard near my home to use for breeding; I must start looking for suitable broodmares. I am in this game for the long haul.”
The statistics tell their own story; from six runners and one winner in 2007 to 381 runners and 45 winners in Britain last year, Koukash now has around 80 horses in training with a dozen trainers. Bulwark has won a Chester Cup, Redford has captured an Ayr Gold Cup and Group 2 success has been provided by Our Jonathan.
At a time when racing needs to attract every penny it can get, men like Koukash who are prepared to invest so heavily in the industry should be embraced with open arms and made to feel welcome – which is why some of his other comments should set alarm bells ringing.
“Chester racecourse is outstanding,” he says. “When I go to Chester I have runners in almost every race. It has a special atmosphere. An important factor is the way [the racecourse] looks after owners and trainers, which is something many other tracks could learn from.
“York is also fantastic and Doncaster good. But there are not many other racecourses where I could say I enjoy going, including Ascot, where the owners’ and trainers’ facilities leave a lot to be desired.”
If racing wants to retain owners like Koukash – and there are plenty of other avenues for a wealthy man to spend his leisure pound – it needs to ensure that the people who provide the runners from which the sport functions and profits are well looked after and not treated as a burden.
Another owner making waves is Team Valor, the global partnership which has runners all over the world. Founded by Barry Irwin, the likes of Gitano Hernando, Ipi Tombe and Irridescence have carried the green and red silks with distinction in recent times.
Irwin’s excellent knowledge of international racing makes his views on the subject even more valid and he is no doubt about the biggest threat to the industry worldwide.
“I’m really worried about Betfair,” he explains to Frances Karon. “They scare the hell out of me – I think they can ruin our sport.
“They don’t realise they need to give something back to racing, which I find disturbing. I just wish that worldwide we could eliminate all bookmakers and especially Betfair.”
This issue also features an interview with Clive Brittain and Philip Robinson. The two veterans have decided to re-form an association that started three decades ago and which enjoyed early success with the brilliant filly Pebbles, who gave the duo their first Group 1 win together in the 1984 1,000 Guineas.
With over 100 horses listed in training at Carlburg Stables, Brittain and Robinson will certainly have plenty of ammunition to go to war with. An early strike with Nideeb in the Group 3 Winter Derby got the ball rolling and they have a host of unexposed runners to look forward to in the coming months.