Sport is the new oil of Dubai
By MARK JEFFREYS Last updated at 10:29am on 5th December 2006
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Dubai potentate Sheik Mohammed
New stable: Dubai potentate Sheik Mohammed has his eyes on Liverpool
If the Maktoum family offer Liverpool the same financial clout and commitment they have afforded horse racing, Anfield fans will be in for the ride of their life.
The Maktoum brothers, spearheaded by Sheik Mohammed, who reputedly has a net worth in excess of £7billion, have turned their racing operation into a world force.
From a handful of horses in 1992, Sheik Mohammed, now the ruler of Dubai, has invested his precious time, money and energy into making Godolphin the envy of the racing world, with his globe-trotting operation blossoming to earn 132 Group One races in 11 countries.
Godolphin, with Arsenal fanatic Frankie Dettori their retained jockey, are known in racing as 'The Boys In Blue', a rich irony unlikely to be lost on Everton fans. Sheik Mohammed is the figurehead of the dozen or so sheiks, including his brother Sheik Hamdan, who own about 3,000 horses between them and have splashed out staggering sums to realise their dreams.
The Maktoum family have also invested in Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, spent £100m setting up the A1GP motor racing and have coaxed the International Cricket Council to relocate from Lord's. Manchester United are also planning to set up their first football school in Dubai. And that is just the start.
Just like footballers, however, some of his racing investments have failed to deliver.
He once famously splashed out £5.2million for SnaafiDancer, a colt so slow in training he never made it on to the racetrack — and was later found to be infertile at stud. He paid £4.9m for a Storm Cat colt and the later-named Jalil could manage only sixth place as an odds-on favourite at Newmarket on his debut in October.
Godolphin, who run Darley Stud as their world-wide breeding empire, hone their massive string in Dubai in the winter and privately fly them into their plush headquarters at Newmarket in late April in time for the Guineas meeting.
'No finish line in the race for excellence '
Although their performances on the track fell below expectations last Flat season, Sheik Mohammed, the controller of Dubai Holdings, his country's giant investment arm, has never had qualms about wielding the chequebook with gusto to put his operation back on the rails. If he wants a horse, he usually gets it.
If successful, Liverpool could have the world's best pedigree players at their disposal, just like the blue-breds the Sheik assembles with scant regard for the costs.
At the Keeneland Sales last September, he had spent £30m by the close of the auction's third session, including £6m for one colt. It will be interesting to see whether his bidding for players is so enthusiastic.
Sheik Mohammed's passion for racing has seen Nad Al Sheba emerge from the desert to become one of the world's most pristine and famous racecourses.
Its showpiece meeting, the Dubai World Cup boasting £10.1m in prizemoney, is targeted by some of the sport's best horses.
Sheik Mohammed, the poet, politician and sportsman, who completed his military training at Sandhurst, is known for fierce competitiveness and is not afraid to take risks.
"In the race for excellence there is no finish line," is one of his many mantras. The Maktoums' quest to be the best in racing, however, has not won unconditional support.
Just as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea are accused of monopolising the talent, the Maktoums had the same charge levelled at them by the Washington Post at the Breeders' Cup meeting in October.
They were accused, among other things, of 'buying the game'.
But it is now obvious sport is the new oil of Dubai.