Why Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Passing is a Great Loss For Racing

Why Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Passing is a Great Loss For Racing
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Prince Khalid Abdullah lived by one of the oldest horse racing mantras. He let his horses do the talking, and boy did they shout from the rooftops.

You would do well to think of an owner that did as much to avoid the public gaze as much as the Saudi Arabian prince, who died aged 83 on Tuesday. Indeed I would wager that large sections of the sport's most ardent fans wouldn’t recognise him if they had bumped into him in the street.

But his unparalleled legacy on the track will have touched the lives of even the most casual of racegoers. Those green, white and pink silks are the most recognisable in the sport and have, over time, become synonymous with big-race success.

Abdullah leaves us as one of, if not the, greatest owner/breeders in the history of the thoroughbred. His silks were carried to victory by over 500 stakes winners, of which he bred over 440, including 118 Group/Grade 1 winners, of which he bred 102.

Abdullah’s Frankel is almost unanimously regarded as the greatest the sport has ever seen, while his dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable transcended the sport. And if you are old enough to remember him, Dancing Brave had his fans raving to such an extent that the likes of which would never be seen again.

How It All Began

A quite remarkable journey began with a trip to Paris Longchamp in 1956, although a pledge to properly engage with the sport didn’t come to fruition until 1977, a year after his father died.

Abdullah, with former trainer Humphrey Cottrill as trusty adviser, acquired four yearlings and put them into training with Jeremy Tree, who was based in Beckhampton.

Some expensive early failures, notably a 1.4 million guineas purchase named Convention, prompted Abdullah to quickly reassess his methodology. He would continue to buy yearlings at public auction, often with great success, but now also focus on buying fillies in training and broodmares.

It was the beginning of the juggernaut that we all know today as Juddmonte Farms, although it would not be until 1988 that he sent out his first homebred Group 1 winner.

Abdullah became the first Arab to own a British Classic winner in 1980 when Known Fact was awarded the 2,000 Guineas but big-race success was soon the norm thanks to the purchase of a $200,000 yearling that went by the name of Dancing Brave.

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Pivotal Moment

Having won the 2,000 Guineas with ease, Dancing Brave was fully expected to follow up in the Derby but he failed to reel in Shahrastani by half a length having been given an almost unfathomable amount of ground to make up in the straight by his then jockey Greville Starkey.

That was a pivotal moment for Abdullah, who made the decision to replace Starkey with Pat Eddery, who would become his retained rider.

Despite the litany of top-flight success through the 90’s and 2000’s, the most rewarding horse for Abdullah came along in 2008.

Frankel was named after Abdullah’s retained US trainer Bobby Frankel, who trained stars like £13m earner Pegasus and Dubai World Cup winner Arrogate, before losing his battle with leukaemia in 2009.

Frankel and his trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, quickly became the most poignant story in racing. Cecil was suffering from stomach cancer and his training career appeared to be coming to an end, but the arrival of Frankel brought a renewed sense of optimism and passion from Cecil, who campaigned the colt exquisitely.

Frankel Finishes Unbeaten

Cecil died eight months after watching Frankel take his career to a perfect 14 from 14 in the 2012 Champion Stakes at Ascot.

Cecil’s widow, Lady Jane, continued bravely to train horses from Warren Place and it says much about Abdullah that he allowed her to train Noble Mission, a full brother to Frankel. The loyalty was rewarded in the autumn of 2014 when Noble Mission followed in his sibling’s footsteps by winning the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

It should also not be forgotten that Abdullah’s loyalty also extended to jockey Tom Queally, who rode the horse to every one of his victories despite some quite stinging criticism in the racing media.

And then along came Enable, the poster girl of modern-day racing who achieved immortality by winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2017 and 2018, taking her owner’s record in the race to six winners. She also became the first horse to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes three times.

Abdullah’s legacy on the track is unrivalled, his qualities as a human unquestioned and his quest for breeding perfection will forever be the work of Juddmonte Farm.

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