Khalid Almudhaf and Mohammed Alqatami are well used to maximising their resources when it comes to racehorse ownership.
Rarely in possession of more than a handful of horses in training, the pair have developed a reputation for campaigning high-profile horses that didn’t break the bank. Perhaps the best was Lahaleeb, the 2009 Grade 1 E P Taylor Stakes heroine who was bought through Hugo Merry for 70,000gns as a yearling. High-class two-year-old Kessaar was similarly relatively inexpensive at 100,000gns as was Laugh Out Loud, the 2012 Prix de Sandringham winner who was bought for just 30,000gns, and Group 3 winner Divine, a 42,000gns yearling purchase. As with Lahaleeb, each was sourced with the assistance of Hugo Merry.
Even by those standards, however, the purchase of Tisa River out of the 2018 Tattersalls December Sale has to be regarded as something of a steal.
The pair were on the hunt for mares with which to support Kessaar, then about to embark on his first season at his birthplace of Tally-Ho Stud. Tisa River, as a half-sister to that year’s Fillies’ Mile heroine Iridessa, was one lot catalogued to the sale in possession of a particularly current family, which was further underlined when Iridessa went on to land the Pretty Polly Stakes, Matron Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at three. By that stage, Tisa River was safely in foal to Kessaar, having been snapped up by Merry on behalf of the pair for 60,000gns.
Iridessa’s subsequent achievements as a three-year-old would have been a fine update by itself but the family has taken off again in recent weeks, primarily thanks to the shock victory of her younger half-brother Order Of Australia in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Their dam, Senta’s Dream, was bought by Aidan and Annemarie O’Brien for just 14,000gns through the BBA Ireland at the 2013 Tattersalls December Sale. An exposure to Galileo blood appears to have been key to her current success – she is, after all, a daughter of Danehill – and following Order Of Australia’s success, she ranks as only the sixth mare in Breeders’ Cup history to have produced multiple winners at the event. It’s a fitting accomplishment considering Senta’s Dream is a daughter of Bobby Frankel’s 2002 Filly & Mare Turf heroine Starine.
With that flourishing pedigree behind her, six-year-old Tisa River returns to the marketplace at Tattersalls next week as part of Ted Voute’s draft as Lot 1680. Order Of Australia was only a minor two-time winner when the catalogue went to press while it’s not beyond the realms of imagination to envisage further black-type heading towards the family via Senta’s Dream’s two-year-old Santa Barbara, a daughter of Camelot who created a fine impression when scoring on debut at the Curragh for Ballydoyle.
“The credit to buy Tisa River has to go to my cousin and partner, Mohammed Alqatami,” says Almudhaf. “We were looking to buy mares to support Kessaar at stud and she wasn’t one of the mares on my list. Mohammed saw her out while we were looking at mares and asked me who she was and why she wasn’t on our list as he thought she was a very good looking mare.
“When I looked her up, I told him that she was a half sister to this year’s Fillies’ Mile winner, so I thought she would be out of our budget. He insisted we see her sell and we were pleasantly surprised when we bought her for 60,000gns.
“We were very fortunate that Iridessa went on to be a champion and Breeders’ Cup winner in 2019, and then Order of Australia won the Breeders’ Cup Mile this year. That has made her a very unique and special mare.”
Adding further lustre is the promise of Santa Barbara.
“Santa Barbara was very impressive in winning her only start this year and both the Racing Post analysis and her jockey, Seamie Heffernan, were very complimentary about her,” says Almudhaf. “Seamie Heffernan has ridden both Iridessa and Order of Australia and said she could be better than both of them. That’s obviously a lot of praise and you would hope that she is a serious middle distance filly for Aidan O’Brien next year.”
Tisa River foaled a colt foal by Kessaar this season and is now in foal to champion sprinter Blue Point.
“She has a very good looking and powerful colt by Kessaar, who has impressed everyone that has seen him – it’s encouraging that her first foal is such a good specimen,” says Almudhaf. “She is now in foal to Blue Point as we felt the Acclamation line did well when crossed with the Shamardal line.”
Early approval for Kessaar
Tisa River aside, much of the pair’s focus now rests on doing what they can to support Kessaar at stud. An extremely precocious colt typical of the Kodiac sire line, Kessaar won the 2018 Mill Reef and Sirenia Stakes for John Gosden and stood his first season at Tally-Ho for €8,000. He has 25 entries catalogued across the Tattersalls and Goffs foal sales.
“We have four foals by him and we love them!” says Almudhaf. “He’s stamping his stock with his good looks and athleticism. They’re all impressive foals with correct conformation. All of them seem to have a good mind as well. I have also spoken to Roger O’Callaghan at Tally-Ho and they seem to be very happy with the foals they have, so the signs are very good. Hopefully they will prove very popular at the sale and become good racehorses.”
He adds: “He is obviously one of the best two-year-old colts produced by Kodiac. John Gosden was always very complimentary of his talent and he’s always been such an impressive horse to look at.
“We’re pleased that from what we’ve seen so far he’s passing his good looks on to his progeny. He was also very versatile ground wise and he comes from one of the best Ogden Phipps families in the book. So you really have an attractive package at a very reasonable price. Kodiac is also proving to be a good sire of sires, so all the signs are promising.”
The owners’ blue and red silks are now a well-established fixture within the British racing scene. Knowledgeable horsemen themselves, they can often be spotted working the European yearling sales alongside Merry, and with fine results.
“I attended my first horse race in Kuwait in 1979 when I was ten-years-old,” says Almudhaf. “I immediately caught the bug and my cousin Mohammed Alqatami, who is 11 years older than me, took me under his wing – he had been involved in the sport as a trainer and owner for several years by then.
“The next year I convinced my father to buy me a half share in a horse with Mohammed and we’ve been partners ever since.”
One of the first horses purchased by Alqatami was the Group 2-placed Sedra, a daughter of Nebbiolo who in turn went on to produce their high-class stayer Samraan. Iftiraas, one of the best sired by Distant Relative, also carried their colours to victory in the 2000 Fred Darling Stakes.
“We’ve been very fortunate to own some good horses in the UK over the years – the best would probably be Lahaleeb,” says Almudhaf.
“Our original trainer was John Dunlop, who was a top-class trainer and individual, and he trained the likes of Sedra, Samraan and Iftiraas for us. Today, we have horses in training with John Gosden, who trained Kessaar and Azmeel [winner of the 2010 Dee Stakes], Mick Channon, who trained Lahaleeb and Laugh Out Loud, Roger Varian, who trained Shenanigans [Listed winner], and Roger Charlton, whose first horse for us is Makram [an 85-rated two-time winner].
“We work the sales as a team. Our agent, Hugo Merry, in all honesty is much more of a friend than an agent and has been working with us for the past 29 years. We also have Samir Elmasri, a close friend and advisor who attends the sales with us.
“Another member of our team is Brendan Holland of Grove Stud, who is responsible for pre-training our yearlings. We keep our broodmares in England with our friend Ted Voute, who has been very helpful to us, and in Ireland with Virginia McGrath of Simmonstown Stud, who does a very good job.
“Our whole team deserves a lot of credit for the success we have had as it really is a team effort with everyone having an important part to play. Horse racing and breeding is our passion and I’m sure we’ll always be involved in it.”