Updated: Sunday, 02 March 2014 22:44 | By Agence France-Presse

No limit to Qatari turf ambitions: Sheikh

The traditional powerhouses of horse racing such as Ireland, England and the United States should beware because the new boys on the block, the Qataris, have limitless ambitions, Sheikh Joaan Al-Thani told AFP in an exclusive interview.


No limit to Qatari turf ambitions: Sheikh

Picture taken on October 6, 2012, shows Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani (R) of Qatar and his two sons Tamim (L) and Hamad (C) during the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe horse race at the Longchamp race track in Paris - by Faisal al-Tamimi

The Sheikh, the fifth son of the former Emir of Qatar, added that their ambitions lay not only in winning on the track but also in breeding their own champions like Ireland's Coolmore Stud and the heavyweight American operations in Kentucky as well as Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley Stud.

The Sheikh's Al Shaqab Racing operation -- which numbers over 100 horses in training -- is named after a breeding enterprise in Qatar established in 1992 by his father, Hamad.

"Qatar is growing and when Qatar believes in something, there is no limit to its ambitions," said Sheikh Joaan, whose first winner in his silks came in August 2012.

"I would like to inform our English and other rivals that we have not just invested in order to win on the racecourse.

"We have become an important part of this industry, we have our methods in the way of approaching it. We respect the ways in which the others do things and we wish that they respect the manner in which we work."

Sheikh Joaan, who experienced the biggest moment as an owner when French-trained filly Treve won Europe's most prestigious race the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last October, was adamant that he didn't favour any particular country in terms of deploying a centre for his operations and there was no individual race he treasured above all in winning.

"French races are important for us, but the British ones equally so," said al-Thani, who will see Treve return to the track at Longchamp on April 27 in the Group One Prix Ganay.

"I don't have a preference: the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Royal Ascot (in June), the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (at Ascot in July).

"Each time I have a chance of winning with one of my horses, I take it.

"Soon, we will race in Japan. I have been invited to race there.

"We went to the Breeder's Cup at Santa Anita, California, last November. We weren't lucky there but we will hope to have more luck this year," he added. 

Sheikh Joaan, whose main body of horses are based in England with trainer Richard Hannon Junior and will have horses with Todd Pletcher in the United States for the first time this year, said people were wrong to think he favoured France over any other country.   

"People think that I am focussed on France," said Sheikh Joaan, for whom Hannon's father Richard trained Olympic Glory and Toronado to Group One success last year.

"I studied at the Saint-Cyr military academy and also lived in France.

"I love France, but this is racing one is talking about.

"If there was a racecourse on the Moon I would send a horse there to run in it.

"Bouquetot (in Normandy, the historic French heartland of breeding horses) is one of the studs we have bought.

"We are looking at both England and Australia to develop that side of things.

"But we can't do it all at once. We had a lot of luck last year in attaining our targets. We have others in our sights."

Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn