The steroids scandal that broke immediately after the May issue of Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder went to press caused a media sensation.
The BHA’s office in London was mobbed as the paparazzi fought, literally, to get a shot of disgraced trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni. The trio of racing photographers who turned up to do battle for a prime spot on the High Holborn pavement looked somewhat shell-shocked by the experience.
Al Zarooni’s actions, and the implications of the use of performance-enhancing drugs, both at home and overseas, are covered elsewhere in this magazine. But the clear message must be that there is no place for cheating of any kind in our sport.
Very few people in the industry would be unaffected if Sheikh Mohammed walked away
One of the questions asked in the wake of the story was what would happen if Sheikh Mohammed, the man whose horses were drugged by Al Zarooni, decided to walk away from British racing and breeding, or scale back his investment?
It is not an easy question to answer, and it must be said there is no immediate prospect of the Sheikh withdrawing from the sport he loves, but the one thing we can be sure of is that there would be very few people in the industry, if any, left unaffected by such an eventuality. It is something that BHA boss Paul Bittar knows only too well, as was evidenced by his united front with Godolphin’s Simon Crisford in the press conference following Al Zarooni’s hearing.
To understand the extent to which Sheikh Mohammed has influenced horseracing and breeding globally, one only needs to look at the contents of this publication. Our Talking To interviewee is Graham Motion, the Englishman training in America and who is returning to the land of his birth to saddle Animal Kingdom in the Queen Anne Stakes.
Last time out, Animal Kingdom travelled to contest the world’s richest horserace, the Dubai World Cup, devised by Sheikh Mohammed as an event to attract the best horses from across the globe.
Undoubtedly, the phenomenal pot landed in the Emirate has enabled Animal Kingdom’s owners to finance a trip to Royal Ascot, because one thing is certain – they’re not coming here for the prize-money.
Also in the spotlight this month is Andrew Tinkler, who talks to Julian Muscat about his huge investment in bloodstock and individual approach to getting the best out of his racehorses.
The Chief Executive of Eddie Stobart, who employs a ‘horses-for-trainers’ policy, is determined to make his equine business pay its way, and that extends to his willingness to part with a yearling or horse in training – if the price is right. Tinkler has recently concluded a deal to sell his exciting miler Fort Knox privately. The buyer was Sheikh Mohammed.
Jim Bolger was another to attract the Dubai ruler’s interest with his homebred colt Dawn Approach, our cover star and undeniably the ‘horse-of-the-moment’ after his demolition job in the 2,000 Guineas.
While the three-year-old is not quite in the Frankel league of guaranteeing extra coverage and devotees to the sport, he’ll remedy that if he continues in his current devastating form.
Now unbeaten in seven races, Dawn Approach heads to Epsom with the age-old question hanging over his chestnut head – will he stay the Derby trip? If he takes after his sire New Approach, a horse that won the blue riband in the silks of Princess Haya, we could soon be talking about another Triple Crown contender, 12 months after Camelot’s glorious failure.
Another first in this issue is the sight of Richard Hughes celebrating British Classic success. That a rider of his calibre had to wait so long to do so is testament to the competitiveness of British racing at the highest level. We must do all we can to keep it that way.