Staying Motivated
Photo:
Dan Liebman
Executive Editor
An article about Dubai published in the Chicago Tribune travel section July 4, 2004, states that the ruling Maktoum family's oil riches bring in about $250 million a day, or roughly $1 billion every four days.

It is important to let that fact sink in when pondering the amount spent by the Maktoums at the Keeneland September yearling sale. During the two-day select portion of the auction, the family bought 60 horses for $42,045,000. Of that, $33,930,000 was for 54 yearlings purchased by English agent John Ferguson, who represents Sheikh Mohammed.

Forty-two million dollars ain't hay, but when you are pumping $10 million in oil every hour, it isn't that much money, either.

It is impossible to know how much Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers, Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Maktoum, have spent on horses. Though auction records are helpful, many horses have been purchased privately. Sheikh Mohammed alone has spent more than $650 million on yearlings at public auction since 1980.

There also is the huge investment in land and the barns, houses, training tracks, and vet clinics that comprise the numerous farms. On top of that, the family built a track in Dubai and put up prize money large enough to entice horsemen from around the globe to ship to the United Arab Emirates to race.

Don't forget broodmares, stud fees, salaries, etc. Still one cannot make all of that total more than $7 billion, one month's take from the oil-rich nation's reserves.

The Maktoums are one of the wealthiest families in the world. Their outlay in the Thoroughbred industry is mind-boggling. But the Maktoums are about much more than their global racing and breeding operations. They have developed Dubai into a country known for its tourism, large container port, and luxurious hotels.

Dubai is an oasis in the desert, a country with little unemployment and a low crime rate. It has grown into an international center for banking and commerce.

And it is home to a ruling family that is in love with the horse. In fact, Sheikh Mohammed has said several times that in his opinion, the horse business is not a good business to be in unless one truly knows about horses and loves horses.

Remember the modern-day Thoroughbred traces to the Arabian, and it is no coincidence Sheikh Mohammed named his operation Darley, after one of the three foundation sires.

Just a few days before Dubai Millennium won the 2000 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), Sheikh Mohammed impressed upon the members of the media that the colt was the best he had ever owned. "I've ridden horses and been around horses all my life," Sheikh Mohammed said. "I know a good horse when I see one, and this is a very good horse."

In other words, though he is a member of a country's ruling family and can afford to buy as many horses as he wants, it is the love of the horse that motivates him.

What motivates consignors is Sheikh Mohammed's presence at a horse sale. He first arrived on the scene at the summer sales in 1980, purchasing the sale-topper at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky auction for $325,000--the Snow Knight filly turned out to be English champion filly Awaasif--and spending $2,425,000 at Keeneland.

In 1989 and 1990, the Maktoums accounted for more than 40% of the gross at the Keeneland July sale. When the percentage began to drop, many thought because they now had so many mares of their own, the Maktoums would stop buying.

At Keeneland Sept. 13-14, they spent $42,045,000, which was 27.9% of the gross. Searching for the next "best horse I've owned" keeps them motivated.

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