The winter issue of the United Kingdom edition of Town & Country magazine features a cover story titled “The New Royals, How the Qataris Became Britain’s Ruling Class.”
The essence of the article is captured in the opening paragraph: “Claridge’s, the Shard, Harrod’s…just a few of the crown jewels the Qataris have snapped up. But there’s something different about their takeover of the turf. So why have the Arabian billionaires made a move on Goodwood, Newmarket, and Ascot? And what does it all mean for British racing?”
Two rival groups from Qatar are investing in a huge way in British horse racing and are challenging the supremacy of Ireland’s Coolmore Stud and Dubai’s Godolphin operation. One group, Qipco, is led by the ruling Al Thani family and the other group, Al Shaqab, is owned by the Qatar state. Al Shaqab races over 150 Thoroughbreds and about 40 Arabians in England and France.
What was previously known as Goodwood race course, and referred to as Glorious Goodwood, has been renamed Qatar Goodwood in a 10-year sponsorship deal that markedly augments purses. For instance, the purse for the Sussex Stakes has risen from £300,000 to £1 million. Qipco, a Qatar investment company, is also Royal Ascot’s main commercial partner and sponsors the Qipco 2,000 Guineas Day at Newmarket and the British Champions Series.
Harry Herbert, chairman of Highclere racing syndicates and former racing manager for Queen Elizabeth II, advises Al Shaqab and noted racing expert David Redvers counsels Qipco. Herbert’s ancestral home is Highclere Castle, the location for Downton Abbey of public television fame.
The Town & Country article illustrates how involvement at the highest level of British horse racing is now and has always been a social endeavor as well as a sporting venture. Horse ownership provides an entrée into British high society and even the opportunity to chat occasionally with the Queen. Horse racing, coupled with investments in well-known British properties like the Shard and Harrod’s, buys plenty of prestige.
Titled families in the United Kingdom traditionally dominated horse racing. Then the likes of Robert Sangster, John Magnier, Sheik Muhammad, and others became the most prominent players. The deep-pocketed groups from Qatar have joined the leaders.
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