(Originally published in the December 5, 2009 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)
Ever wonder what the Thoroughbred industry would look like if Sheikh Mohammed woke up one morning and decided he no longer wished to be a participant?
If you are a breeder, you probably don't want to think about it. Well, the game would continue, but it would certainly have a different look.
There is no reason to believe this will happen, but the subject became something to postulate when the United States economy took a step back Nov. 27 on news the country Sheikh Mohammed rules, Dubai, is not immune from the global economic crisis.
On Nov. 25, the country's development arm, Dubai World, asked for as much as six months to postpone payment on approximately $60 billion it owes creditors. That news rocked global markets including the U.S., which when trading reopened following the Thanksgiving holiday, saw the Dow drop more than 150 points, about 1.5%.
Dubai has been consumed with development, countless stories detailing how the tiny Arab emirate had the majority of the world's construction cranes building skyscrapers at a frenetic pace. But when the recession hit, it forced real estate into a tailspin, and Dubai found itself in trouble.
When the country that has symbolized growth suddenly can't pay its bills, markets around the world fall. And, while there is no reason to think the ruler of Dubai will walk away from the business that appears to give him as much pleasure as any other with which he is involved, the Thoroughbred market would also fall if he decides to call it quits.
It seems safe to say Sheikh Mohammed has invested more than anyone else in the Thoroughbred industry. He owns more land and horses, employs more people, and spends more at auctions. This has not been done overnight, but rather over more than 25 years, so his involvement is not a passing fancy.
Though neither Sheikh Mohammed nor his bloodstock agent, John Ferguson, attended the Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sales, which was certainly unusual, Sheikh Mohammed did attend the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale in person and Ferguson was far and away the top spender at the Keeneland September sale. Also, representatives of the Sheikh's operation are continuing to seek bloodstock; for instance, several offers have been made for the winner of a recent major stakes race for juveniles.
Sheikh Mohammed is busy working on financing to solve the financial crisis that has hit his country. There is no reason to think he will cause a crisis in the Thoroughbred industry.
WHAT'S IN A NAME
It is nice the Oak Tree Racing Association wishes to honor Zenyatta by naming a stakes race after her. Zenyatta won four grade I stakes during Oak Tree at Santa Anita meetings, including the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic in 2008 and this year's Breeders' Cup Classic. Oh, and for the last two years she also won the Lady's Secret Stakes, named for the 1986 Horse of the Year and champion older mare who became a member of the Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1992. The race Oak Tree has named for Zenyatta was formerly the Lady's Secret.
While no one can argue against naming a race for an unbeaten champion, surely there must be another race that could be named for Zenyatta.
This would be like Hollywood Park renaming the Charlie Whittingham Stakes for Bobby Frankel.
While being interviewed in early October for a feature story (The Blood-Horse of Nov. 7, page 4070), WinStar Farm racing manager Elliott Walden was asked a simple question: Name a horse we haven't heard of yet but will soon? With farm owners Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt listening, Walden didn't hesitate. "American Lion and Super Saver," Walden said.
Since then American Lion (by Tiznow) broke his maiden and won the Nov. 21 Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III), while Super Saver (by Maria's Mon) was a close fourth in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I), and won the Nov. 28 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II).
OK, we have now heard of them.