Timeform's John Ingles pays tribute to the stunning success of Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms operation following his passing on Tuesday.
Few in Europe have owned a better horse than Dancing Brave. Few in America have owned a better horse than Arrogate. Few have bred and owned a better filly than Enable. And has anyone bred and owned a better horse than Frankel? Frankel became Timeform’s highest-rated horse, in a period stretching back more than 70 years, with a rating of 147. Dancing Brave is one of only around a dozen horses to have been rated as high as 140 by Timeform. Arrogate is close behind on 139, and Enable’s rating of 134 puts her among the top ten fillies and mares in Timeform’s experience.
Remarkably, all these outstanding horses shared the same owner, and were the very best among many top-class horses who raced in the green, pink sash, white sleeves and cap, of Khalid Abdullah. Posed portraits of his horses in the Racehorses annuals modestly referred to their owner as ‘Mr K. Abdulla’ (Timeform long used the spelling of ‘Khaled Abdulla’ for his full name, as he was registered with Weatherbys), but ‘Mr Abdulla’, a member of the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, was more formally His Highness Prince Khalid bin Abdullah.
The Prince’s unassuming identity as a racehorse owner, together with his rare public appearances and interviews, belied a close involvement with the key decisions in the running of what became the Juddmonte racing and breeding empire. In an interview with The Blood-Horse in 2003, Dr John Chandler, president of Juddmonte in the USA, explained: “I think some people think we have to call a secretary, who calls an adviser, who talks to the prince and gets back to us. There is one man. He says yes or no. There are no committees. The main point to emphasize about Juddmonte is how well he [Abdullah] knows his own horses. This is no absentee owner. He knows his horses better than I do. He knows the pedigrees, he knows the families, he knows who each mare is in foal to.”
A visit to Longchamp in 1956 apparently sparked the Prince’s interest in racing but it was more than 20 years later that he bought his first horses - four yearlings in 1977. After two-year-old Charming Native had become the first winner in the now famous silks, in a maiden at Windsor in May 1979 under Lester Piggott, much greater success quickly followed. A month later, Abdullah’s very first runner in a pattern race was successful when Abeer landed the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot before going on to win the Flying Childers. There was soon a first Group 1 winner as well, when Known Fact won that season’s Middle Park Stakes, and he went on to become the Prince’s first classic winner when he was awarded the 2000 Guineas, on the disqualification of Nureyev, the following spring.
Known Fact turned out to be the first of Abdullah’s many English classic winners. Dancing Brave, Zafonic and Frankel were three more 2000 Guineas winners; Wince and Special Duty (another who gained a classic in the stewards’ room) won the 1000 Guineas; Enable was the second Oaks winner after Reams of Verse; Quest For Fame, Commander In Chief and Workforce all won the Derby, while Logician provided Abdullah with his last English classic winner when successful in the 2019 St Leger, a race he also won with Toulon. There was success, too, in all the French classics at least once, while Siskin’s win in last year’s Irish 2000 Guineas was a final classic winner during the Prince’s lifetime.
Dancing Brave, Known Fact and Rainbow Quest, who was awarded the 1985 Arc, a year before Dancing Brave’s victory, were among the notable yearling auction purchases – those three in America – who helped kick-start Abdullah’s involvement as an owner at the highest level. But by the 21st century, when home-breds Rail Link, Workforce and Enable took their owner’s total of Arc wins to a record-equalling six, Abdullah’s longer-term policy of developing his own families and breeding his own top-class performers was well under way and bearing fruit.
Not long into ownership, he soon decided “it would be fun to do what the Aga Khan did and build up my own families.” But the crucial difference was that the Aga Khan inherited a fully-fledged bloodstock empire, whereas Abdullah had to create his broodmare band from scratch. The first step in that process came with the private purchase of a mare named Metair who produced the Juddmonte (as it is now known) operation’s first home-bred winner Fine Edge in 1982. Further milestones were Ballinderry’s 1984 success in the Ribblesdale Stakes – Juddmonte’s first home-bred Group winner – and when Known Fact’s son Warning won the Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 1988 to become the operation’s first home-bred Group 1 winner.
Meanwhile, the other founding members of the Juddmonte broodmare band were being assembled from a variety of sources – public auction, private purchases, and as part of packages that came with stud properties. Notable among these acquisitions were the mares Rockfest and Fleet Girl. Rockfest became the great grandam of Frankel, while Fleet Girl (bought as part of Ferrans Stud, where Juddmonte’s European yearlings are broken nowadays) is the fourth dam of Enable. Another notable purchase, for $350,000 as a yearling, was the filly Razyana, whose first foal was Group 1-winning sprinter Danehill. While Juddmonte sold Danehill to Coolmore as a stallion prospect, he played a crucial part in Frankel’s pedigree (as sire of his dam Kind) and sired one of Juddmonte’s most successful stallions Dansili, himself responsible for Rail Link and current Juddmonte stallion Bated Breath among others.
Such was the success of the flourishing Juddmonte families that, in contrast to the Maktoums who have always supplemented their home-bred progeny with annual purchases at the yearling auctions, Juddmonte has for the most part been self-sustaining in producing top-class racehorses and stallions. That success has translated into three champion owner titles in Britain, in 2003, 2010 and 2011.
A notable trait of some of the broodmares Juddmonte has nurtured over the years has been the ability to produce not just one very good horse but several. Dansili’s dam Hasili is probably the most celebrated of those, producing the five Group/Grade 1 winners Banks Hill (Juddmonte’s first winner at the Breeders’ Cup), Champs Elysees, Cacique, Intercontinental and Heat Haze, all of whom achieved Timeform ratings in the 120s. Slightly Dangerous, dam of the already mentioned Warning and Commander In Chief, produced other good horses, including Dushyantor and Deploy, runners-up respectively in the Derby and Irish Derby. Then there was Toussaud who produced three US Grade 1 winners, notably Empire Maker whose 2003 Belmont Stakes was Juddmonte’s first success in one of America’s triple crown races. Dancing Brave’s daughter Hope has proved an invaluable broodmare for Juddmonte’s current stallion roster, where she is represented by both her son Oasis Dream and grandson Kingman.
While Prince Khalid might have had the final say on matters, he made sure he had the best of advice when starting out. As Kingman’s essay in Racehorses of 2014 pointed out, “the likes of Humphrey Cottrill, Jeremy Tree (Khalid Abdullah’s first trainer) and bloodstock agents James Delahooke (who bought Arc winners Dancing Brave and Rainbow Quest as yearlings, as well as the dams of Derby winners Quest For Fame and Commander In Chief) and George Blackwell (purchaser of Kingman’s great grandam Bahamian) played an enormous part in the formative years.”
Abdullah also made sure that the Juddmonte stock were placed in the best of hands. Sir Henry Cecil, Sir Michael Stoute, John Gosden and Tree’s successor at Beckhampton Roger Charlton have been among the longest-serving trainers for Juddmonte, along with Andre Fabre in France, while the late Bobby Frankel successfully handled many of the operation’s ex-European horses when they were sent across the Atlantic later in their careers. More recently, the policy of purchasing some yearlings with dirt pedigrees to be trained in California by Bob Baffert struck gold when the ill-fated Arrogate, who died at the age of just seven last June, won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup.
Khalid Abdullah lived just long enough to see the conclusion of Enable’s racing career, the last of those four exceptional horses with which his name will always be linked. But Enable is about to embark on a broodmare career with a visit to Kingman in the coming months, which is as sure a sign as any that the legacy of the empire which their breeder founded some forty years ago is set to last for a good while yet.