Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai arrived at Keeneland Sunday morning, one day before the start of the September yearling sale. It was his first appearance at an American Thoroughbred auction since the September sale of 2001, which was disrupted by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
As Sheikh Mohammed and his group of advisers, including John Ferguson and Simon Crisford, strolled through the Keeneland grounds, they were greeted with smiles and handshakes. Two young women passed out blue baseball caps with "Darley" embroidered in white on them while Sheikh Mohammed inspected numerous yearlings.
"It's good to see Sheikh Mohammed here in person," said Michael Hernon of Gainesway Farm. "He's a dynamic guy with a lot of energy. When he's here in person it's a significant help (to the market)."
Said Will Farish of Lane's End Farm: "Absolutely, this is a good thing. It's a tough time in the world right now for him, and it's great he can take a break and get back to see his farm and his horses, and come to the sale. He's a great sportsman, and he loves the sale. I'm sure it makes it a lot easier on his (buying)team to have him here."
Keeneland's president and chief executive officer Nick Nicholson was also pleased to see Sheikh Mohammed.
"We're honored, and we're happy he's back," Nicholson said.
Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager, was Keeneland's leading buyer last year in terms of gross expenditures, paying $13,555,000 for 26 horses. It was the fourth year in a row he had topped the list. He spent $15,962,000 for 26 horses in 1999, $31,520,000 for 45 in 2000, and $27,835,000 in 2001.