Racing Laments The Passing Of Prince Khalid Abdullah.
Earlier this month, the thoroughbred world learned of the sad passing of one of its greatest supporters, His Highness Prince Khalid Abdullah. In fifty years, Prince Khalid built a thoroughbred empire which was the envy of the world, both in his success as an owner on the track but also as a breeder. He was born in 1937 and at 83 years, he leaves a legacy which may never be rivalled.
Prince Khalid Abdullah was born into the Saudi royal family. His father was Abdullah Bin Abdul-Rahman who was the younger brother to King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. He married the King’s daughter, Al Jawhara bint Abdulaziz and had seven children, four sons and three daughters. He was father in law to the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. Despite all his trappings of royalty and wealth this gave him, the one thing that it so striking, was his modesty, friendliness and loyalty. When Sir Henry Cecil was literally on his uppers with only 12 horses in training, Prince Khalid stood by his old friend and sent him a good looking Galileo colt, a home bred out of Khalid’s mare Kind, by Danehill. This colt just happened to be Frankel, so named after the great United States trainer Bobby Frankel. This example of loyalty exemplifies the sort of man The Prince was.
In 1956, Prince Khalid was already a very successful and wealthy businessman. He had many interests in business including the media industry, chemical production, medical supplies, construction and financial interests among many others. He brought the whole of his business empire together under the one name of Marwarid Holding, a company still in existence today under the watchful eye of one of his sons.
On a fateful day at Longchamp in Paris, Prince Khalid decided he liked the idea of owning racehorses. He knew little about them but thought that it would be something he could get into and enjoy. Finally, in 1977, he decided to dip his toe in the water and purchase his first yearlings at the Newmarket sales. He employed a former trainer, Humphrey Cottrill who brought four yearlings at the sales, all of whom were sent to Jeremy Tree. However, none of these four were much good. The following year he purchased the two top lots at the Newmarket Houghton yearling sales, despite the price tag of 1.4 million for one, they turned out to be not much good either. Not to be deterred, Prince Khalid decided to see what was on offer at the Keenland yearling sales in the USA, where he purchased a colt for $225,000. This colt was sent back to the UK and Jeremy Tree. He was named Known Fact and was the start of a list of fantastic horses who ran in the famous pink and green colours. Known Fact won the Middle Park Stakes, a Group 1 as a two year old and the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in 1980.
“And there’re off” as the saying goes. The list of classic winners running under the Khalid Abdullah name in the 1980s was frankly extraordinary. Rainbow Quest won the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in 1985, followed by Dancing Brave who took the same race a year later as well as picking up the 2000 Guineas for another trainer Guy Harwood.
With all these winners, in 1982, Prince Khalid brought his first stud farm, The Cayton Park Stud near Wargrave in Berkshire, which he re-named Juddmonte. His stud purchases soon grew with further purchases of studs; in Newmarket, The Banstead Manor Stud, where his top mares and stallions were and still are based. Further properties in the UK, Ireland, France and the USA were also procured. With all the successes on the track, he would need all these studs to build up his breeding operation. As well as building up an enviable stallion roster, he was also buying top fillies and mares. He brought a mare called Slightly Dangerous, sent her to Known Fact and produced Warning, who was European Champion miler in 1988. His breeding operation was now in full swing and allowed Khalid to be owner breeder of all the classics in the UK with Quest For Fame – winner of the Derby in 1990, the first of his three Derby wins, the other two being Commander In Chief three years later and Workforce, trained by the great Henry Cecil and who also broke the Derby’s winning time in 2010. Other home bred winners included Toulon, winner of the St Ledger, Zafonic, who won the 2000 Guineas and of course Frankel who achieved the same result and more. Prince Khalid’s fillies were not to be outdone either. He bred Reams Of Verse who took the Oaks at Epsom as did another well-known filly Enable, He also won the 1000 Guineas with both Wince and Special Duty.
In both France and the USA, Khalid’s magic was in all abundance. He won the French Derby with Sanglamore and more recently, repeated the feat with New Bay. He won the French Oaks with House Proud, Zenda and Special Duty, and the Prix De L’Arc with Rail Link, Work Force and of course twice with Enable. In the USA he won many races, more notably The Breeders Cup with Banks Hill, Midday, Intercontinental and in 2018, he took two of the Breeder’s Cup races with Expert Eye and his wonder filly Enable. In Ireland, Prince Khalid won the Irish Oaks with Wemyss Bright and Bolas together with the Irish 2000 Guineas with current stallion sensation Kingman.
The home bred successes just keep coming around the globe. Other breeders around the world can only look on and marvel at Prince Khalid’s success, but they too can enjoy some of his glory. His stallions at Banstead Manor Stud, Frankel, Kingman, Expert Eye and New Bay are all well supported and are producing wonderful horses in their own right. At Tattersalls in Newmarket, the Wednesday of the mare and filly sale is always savoured as The Prince sells some 50 or 60 well-bred mares and fillies every year which is another way that other breeders can enjoy some of the Khalid magic.
Many in the industry will miss this quiet unassuming man. He currently has horses in training with no less than seven trainers in the UK including John Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute, four in the USA including Bob Baffert, another four in France including Andre Fabre and two in Ireland including Ger Lyons.
A small little article such as this, will not come anywhere near lauding the successes and brilliance of Prince Khalid Abdullah, but be in no doubt, he will be greatly missed in the bloodstock world. On the racecourse, he won 213 Group 1 races with different horses. He won the Eclipse Breeder of the year in the USA countless times and was recognised by winning many owner and breeder championships in Europe. His horses too have featured in the list of Longines and Cartier Horses of the Year Championships. Maybe his ultimate accolade was in 1983 when he was made an Honorary Member of the Jockey Club.
John Gosden, Khalid’s trainer of Enable, summed up the great man in his own inimitable way when he said “Prince Khalid Abdullah first enjoyed going racing in the 1950s as a young man in Paris. This sparked his bold and thorough plan to establish an international breeding operation in the late 1970s and was an illustration of his brilliant mind. In a period of 20 years he established himself as both a European and American champion breeder. His charming, urbane and humorous manner was coupled with a great strategic approach both in business and his horseracing and breeding operation. A very private and patrician gentleman, Prince Khalid was a very strong family man for whom it has been a great honour and privilege to train for 38 years.”
Another tribute was from Lady Cecil, Henry Cecil’s former wife, who was so thankful for the friendship and loyalty the Prince showed her husband. “Prince Khalid was a gentleman and was so loyal to Henry. Sending him Frankel for him to train in the last few years of his life really helped him carry on. He was a good friend to Henry and without his support at one stage of his career he wouldn’t have been able to continue, but he believed in him. Not only did the Prince send Henry horses but he sent him good horses. He had the likes of Midday, Twice Over, Passage Of Time and ultimately Frankel. It was obviously the Prince’s call to send him Frankel and it gave him something to get up in the morning for.”
Prince Khalid Abdullah employed 300 people in his thoroughbred operation and showed them all kindness and respect. He always down played his own role in the operation and praised his staff, but in fact nothing was ever done without his consent and approval. He was very hands on. He leaves a legacy which probably will never be achieved again. He will be greatly missed by all in the thoroughbred industry.