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Maktoum Middle Ground

As expected, there has been fierce debate about Beyer’s article excoriating The Dubai Effect on racing. Much of the discussion has been framed in very black and white fashion, with little room for grey (or roan, for that matter) areas.

A more balanced approach may be found in The Times, in an article by Lydia Hislop. The following paragraphs are well worth highlighting:
Here, the Maktoums invest massively in our industry: purchasing, employing, sponsoring, furthering veterinary science and even providing vision. They have invigorated the sport on a global scale, with a positive knock-on effect for Britain.

They reawakened a now-common desire to keep older horses in training. They are sportingly unafraid to compete against each other, although in hard times this is less true than it once was.

The downside of such spending power is evident. Like Coolmore, they are guilty of the over-production of foals. Their part in collecting the best horses in fewer hands also damages the competitiveness of British racing and erodes its structure. Horses that otherwise would win our group two or three events or run down the field in group ones are redirected elsewhere.

Lately, this has been exacerbated by the under-performance of Godolphin and Darley Stud. Bungled breeding, purchasing and/or training denies us a significant flow of good horses. The paucity of Godolphin juveniles for the past two seasons and its acquisitive threat to trainers careless enough to win such races in their absence is undermining two-year-old racing.

I am particularly struck by her point about the ‘desire to keep older horses in training’ — why does that not seem to be a goal in the US arm of the operation? It could be argued that it is a reflection of US racing as a whole, although if that were the case, I would want such an influential owner to lead the way as far as keeping their horses sound and in training.

I also appreciate that she brings Coolmore into the equation, not merely as a rival, but as part of the commercial breeding trend as a whole. More than any individual owner or ownership group, responsibility for many of the problems in the sport today must be place there.

The press around Giacomo’s retirement speaks for itself (via Frank Stronach):

“He was a grade I (winner as a) 2-year-old, Kentucky Derby winning 3-year-old, and grade II winning 4-year-old. He showed a consistency at the highest level that is rarely seen today, qualities that we highly value in a stallion.”

Not to knock Giacomo (I was impressed by his finish in the Classic), but if he’s the pinnacle of ‘consistency at the highest level that is rarely seen today’ then we’re doing something wrong. We seem to be at a point where we feel we must congratulate owners for racing their stallion prospect as a 4-year-old at all, which is clearly not the ideal. It’s understandable that a certain (often large) percentage of a breeder’s income will come from the auction ring; that is unavoidable. But auction prices are frequently more reflective of the buzz of the sire’s name rather than the proven racing ability of his offspring.

Instead of relying on name recognition, the large commercial breeders should be basing their decisions on sound scientific principles; there is enough recent research to start making breeding decisions based on specific genetic goals. As these goals will by their nature be long-term, these breeders are the only ones with the resources to step up and lead the way in this regard. It’s about time one of them showed a real inclination to breed the best, not just the highest-priced.


1 comment to Maktoum Middle Ground

  • Mike

    I read on John’s blog that you like Ouija Board as Horse of the Year… I think you and I are the only two.


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