Harry Herbert was today announced as racing advisor to the sport’s most exciting new participant of recent years, Sheikh Joaan Al Thani.
Herbert’s new role will work in tandem with his existing position as Managing Director of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, the syndication company he founded 21 years ago. He will also continue as racing consultant to the Cartier Awards and manage the Royal Ascot Racing’s Club’s five horses.
Sheikh Joaan – a brother of Qatar’s emir – has only raced thoroughbreds for a couple of years but has already made a big splash on both the racecourse and in the sale ring. His colours were carried to victory by Treve in the Qatar-sponsored Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October, three days before he set a European sale record when spending 5 million gns on a Galileo filly at Tattersalls.
He will have around 50 horses in training in Britain next season under the banner of Al Shaqab Racing and about 110 overall in Europe, including Arab horses, and Herbert is relishing his new position.
“I’m very excited by the role, it’s a huge privilege for me. I hope that in a year’s time there will be more Group 1 races notched on the board and there wont be too much seconditis,” said Herbert, speaking at a press conference at London’s Dorchester Hotel.
“For me personally, the process of talking to trainers and seeing where the horses fit in is important. We’ll try to get some order into telling Sheikh Joaan what his horses are up to and develop a good information flow.”
Al Shaqab will be run as a separate entity from Highclere’s offices near Newbury and Herbert is looking to recruit an assistant and may take on other staff as the role develops.
Sheikh Joaan’s cousins are heavily involved in sponsorship of British racing under the QIPCO banner and Al Shaqab Racing are likely to be following suit in the near future according to Nasser Al Kaabi, the organisation’s head of media.
“The UK is very important to us and we are going to expand here in the future. We are also going to sponsor some races under the Al Shaqab banner – we are in negotiations at the moment,” said Al Kaabi. “We want to sponsor the best races but everybody knows they have sponsors at the moment.”
Sheikh Joaan last year bought Haras de Bouquetot in Normandy, where he will stand Style Vendome and Planteur alongside two Arabian stallions in 2014 and Al Kaabi revealed plans to add another farm to the portfolio.
“We will also have a stud farm in the UK or Ireland in the years to come,” he added. “But that is the future and it is something we will study well in order to meet our expectations.” Al Kaabi added that Al Shaqab would continue using a wide spectrum of trainers, which will next year include Todd Pletcher, who has been sent a couple of horses in the United States.
Sheikh Joaan’s horses will in future no longer run under his name but instead for Al Shaqab Racing, sporting some new silks that will soon be revealed and the owner is looking forward to welcoming retained rider Frankie Dettori back to the saddle next year.
“Frankie is a major asset to us, we believe we made the right choice when we chose him and we were very sad when he had his injury,” added Al Kaabi. “We hope he is with us for many years to come and I hope he is soon back on track.”
Meanwhile, there could be a home-grown rider sporting the same silks in the near future.
“We have a young Qatari jockey, Faleh Bogunaim, in training with Luca Cumani at the moment and he will ride for Al Shaqab Racing eventually. We hope he will be one of our first jockeys in years to come,” revealed Al Kaabi.