John Ferguson, the bloodstock manager of Sheikh Mohammed, took a break from his busy schedule to talk to the media Sept. 9 during the second session of the Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington. He answered questions and responded to observations about Sheikh Mohammed’s buying strategy during the auction and indicated that some people might be overanalyzing what Dubai's ruler and his buying team have been doing during the auction.
Why are you buying so many fillies?
“No reason. It just happens to be that there’s no bias one way or the other. It just happens that that’s the way the sale has set up for us really.”
A.P Indy seems to be your favorite stallion.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that here in the United States he’s the top man. The great thing about him is that some beautiful mares were bred to him. There are some other young stallions that are coming through the ranks now, but they weren’t bred with $300,000 stud fees and obviously that inevitably means (they didn’t cover) the absolutely cream of the broodmare crop here in Kentucky. Therefore, it’s not really surprising that they (A.P. Indy yearlings) – I keep using the same expression – tick the boxes: a quality (yearling) filly, a great stallion, a top young mare, and a great athlete.”
Are the A.P. Indy fillies you’ve bought going to race in America?
“I would expect so. As I always say, it’s the same old, same old. You get them all back to the farm, have a look with them, and see what they’re like and everything else. But, inevitably, it makes sense that, because A.P. Indy has been so much more successful in the States, they would stay here.”
Based on what happened in the first session, you’re spending less. Why?
“First of all, we don’t study it, and that’s a thing that you notice more than we do. We will buy the horses or try to buy the horses that we find that suit the program. We will value those horses. Now, the advantage that we have, because we buy a number of them, is that sometimes you can go over your valuation on one knowing you’re going to get lucky on another one. So, sometimes you can go that extra bid because you’re buying more than three or four horses for one client. We find the horses that we feel suit, and we go out and try to buy those horses. It’s not like we come in saying we’re going to buy 20 or we’re going to buy 30 or we’re cutting our budget. We just come in and try to buy because budgets for one sale wouldn’t make any sense, obviously. You’ve got to look at these things over a year and make judgments over the course of a year – and for us, not just in one continent, either. Obviously, we were busy in Japan; we were busy in Europe. It’s just a question of finding the horses that suit the program in that particular continent or that particular place.”
Did your recent purchase of the Stonerside operation affect what you were going to spend at Keeneland?
“No, that didn’t. It’s just finding horses to suit the criteria.”
How big is Sheikh Mohammed's operation?
It keeps us busy.
Could you guess and say how many horses the operation now encompasses as of today?
“As of today, well we bought one five minutes ago. We have a large number of mares in Australia; we’ve got 400 mares in Australia. We’ve got more than 300 mares here, and a similar number in Europe. Is that good enough?”
You’ve been asked about buying so many fillies already, but does the fact that you’ve started a big stallion operation here have some influence on that?
“It’s never been a secret that stallions need good broodmares. Obviously, there are two different criteria when you’re buying (female) yearlings. One is will it be a racehorse? And ultimately, when you’re spending a lot of money, it’s will it be a broodmare? So, it makes sense, when you’re spending a large amount of money, that if the filly is capable of winning a race, you want to keep her for your broodmare band. There are a lot of professionals in this business, and we all do it pretty much the same way.”