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Prince Khalid Abdullah – the founder of a racing legacy beyond equal

Khalid Abdullah provided the racing world with a platinum legacy as the owner-breeder of a string of equine greats including Enable and Frankel.

Through his breeding operation Juddmonte Farms, the Saudi prince was the driving force behind generations of many of the best horses to grace the turf.

Dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable and unbeaten superstar Frankel lit up the early 21st century, yet were following in the hoofprints of Rainbow Quest, Dancing Brave and Zafonic among a stellar list of mighty Juddmonte forebears.

Equine ancestry was always key for Abdullah, from his first steps into racing more than 40 years ago, as he built up a battalion not merely for the present, but long into the future through home-bred stallions and broodmares.

Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud was born into Saudi Arabian royalty, in 1937, in the Middle East Kingdom’s Mecca Province.

His earliest association with the blue bloods of the turf, however, did not begin until many years later.

A spark was reportedly lit in the most appropriate of surroundings, given exploits to come, on a chance 1950s trip as a young man to Longchamp – home of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s premier middle-distance Flat prize.

Known Fact (right) won the 2000 Guineas in the stewards' room in 1980
Known Fact (right) won the 2000 Guineas in the stewards’ room in 1980 (PA)

Yet history records the first victory in his pink, green and white colours arrived only in May 1979 – courtesy of Charming Native and trainer Jeremy Tree at Windsor.

Major investment was already under way by then – in terms of bloodstock, with real estate to follow – and success at the highest level was swiftly achieved.

Known Fact had been bred for American dirt but put a new, expanding enterprise on the map with victory in the 1979 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket – returning the following spring to win the 2000 Guineas, after the disqualification of Nureyev who had passed the post first by a neck.

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No matter, the prince’s outlay was repaid – as it already had been for the first time at Royal Ascot a year earlier with Abeer’s success in the Queen Mary Stakes.

Significant milestones arrived on and off the track in 1982 – with the first home-bred winners and the founding of the Juddmonte banner.

Dancing Brave's exploits in 1986 set the bar high for Juddmonte
Dancing Brave’s exploits in 1986 set the bar high for Juddmonte (PA)

It was to take up residence in due course at renowned farms in Britain, Ireland and America, including Newmarket’s Banstead Manor Stud, home to its top European stallions.

Abdullah’s early racecourse successes were pioneering on behalf of several new fellow owner-breeders from the Middle East – including Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, from the United Arab Emirates.

Coolmore, in Ireland and America, evolved as another powerful rival as a breeding ground for champions.

Juddmonte’s best were elite – and it was Dancing Brave who first set the bar with his remarkable deeds in 1986.

After his Guineas victory, he agonisingly failed to catch Shahrastani in the Derby – but following a brilliant performance in the Eclipse at Sandown, trainer Guy Harwood sent his colt to Ascot’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes to exact emphatic revenge for the Epsom near-miss.

That was little more than half the tale which culminated when Dancing Brave, ridden by Pat Eddery who had replaced injured Greville Starkey at Ascot, produced astonishing late acceleration to mow down the Arc field at Longchamp, mastering one of the best fields ever assembled in Paris.

Juddmonte therefore retained a title won the previous year in the stewards’ room by Rainbow Quest.

Throughout, Abdullah was a notably unassuming presence on the racecourse – allowing the splendid narratives around him to speak for themselves.

His varied, characterful trainers and brilliant racehorses ensured that task was duly fulfilled.

The unblemished career of Frankel was perhaps the finest example.

Frankel after his brilliant 2000 Guineas win, with his victorious connections - including jockey Tom Queally. owner Khalid Abdullan and trainer Sir Henry Cecil
Frankel after his brilliant 2000 Guineas win, with his victorious connections – including jockey Tom Queally, owner Khalid Abdullah and trainer Sir Henry Cecil (PA)

The son of Coolmore’s great sire Galileo was named after Abdullah’s former trainer, the great American Robert ‘Bobby’ Frankel, but was in the care of Sir Henry Cecil – ailing, much-admired doyen of the British ranks – and ridden by stable jockey Tom Queally.

It proved a prolific winning combination which entranced millions, especially after an astonishingly impressive 2000 Guineas victory in 2011 – one of 14 occasions in all, 10 at Group One level, when Frankel proved utterly superior.

When he did so on his penultimate start in the Juddmonte International at York – over his longest trip, 10 and a half furlongs – he pulled off another feat by prompting rare public expression from his owner at victory in the race he sponsored.

“It’s exceptional – I’ve never seen it like that,” Abdullah said in the winner’s enclosure, as he took in the universal goodwill of racegoers – none of whom could have got rich backing the 1-10 favourite.

Other superstars carried the Juddmonte mantle with great distinction.

Zafonic and Pat Eddery lead the field en route to victory in the 1993 2000 Guineas
Zafonic and Pat Eddery lead the field en route to victory in the 1993 2000 Guineas (Fiona Hanson/PA)

They included the mercurial Zafonic, victor in the 1993 Guineas and a brilliant juvenile for Andre Fabre, Commander In Chief – Cecil’s Derby winner in that same year – and late-maturing mare Midday, a six-time Group One heroine.

Arrogate was the most successful globetrotter of all, amassing earnings of over £13.5million largely thanks to his Dubai and Pegasus World Cup victories – flying the flag for his connections’ American base too with a 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic win.

Nonetheless Enable, trained by John Gosden and ridden to all her major triumphs by Frankie Dettori, is Juddmonte’s home-bred queen.

Queen of the turf Enable, with winning jockey Frankie Dettori, after their 2019 Yorkshire Oaks success
Queen of the turf Enable, with winning jockey Frankie Dettori, after their 2019 Yorkshire Oaks success (Nigel French/PA)

A three-time champion owner in Britain – with more than 100 individual top-level winners worldwide – Abdullah was verging on 80 before Enable burst onto the scene.

His homebred superstar racked up a 12-race unbeaten sequence, which took in the Oaks and four more Group Ones in 2017 – lastly in the Arc, displaced at Chantilly.

She did not lose again, including at the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, until runner-up to Waldgeist in the Longchamp mud when bidding for a record third Arc in 2019.

Enable’s brilliance and resilience has been a crowning glory, even by Juddmonte’s elite standards, and embodiment of its founder’s vision and ambition.

Seven of the best for Prince Khalid Abdullah

Prince Khalid Abdullah’s famous green, pink and white silks have been carried by some of the greats of the turf. Here we look back at just a handful of his spectacular performers:

Dancing Brave (Guy Harwood)

Dancing Brave won the King George at Ascot in a stellar three-year-old season
Dancing Brave won the King George at Ascot in a stellar three-year-old season (PA)

Dancing Brave was quite simply one of the greatest horses of all time. He won two low-key races at two, but victory in the Craven Stakes launched him into the big time and he then justified favouritism in the 2000 Guineas. He was favourite for the Derby, too, and much has been written about his defeat at Epsom, where he devoured the ground in the straight and just failed to reel in Shahrastani. Dancing Brave went on to win the Eclipse, King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes and, after a warm up at Goodwood, produced an amazing performance to sweep down the outside and beat one of the best fields ever assembled in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Enable (John Gosden)

Enable has won 10 Group Ones to date
Enable has won 10 Group Ones to date (Julian Herbert/PA)

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It is not difficult to argue a case that Enable is the best racemare Abdullah has ever owned. A 12-race unbeaten run, kicking off in May 2017 and running through to October 2019, encompassing 10 Group One victories, really is the stuff of dreams. Her haul includes the English-Irish Oaks double in 2017, the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf and, of course, back-to-back wins in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. She also became the first three-time winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last summer.

Frankel (Sir Henry Cecil)

Frankel spreadeagled his rivals in the 2000 Guineas
Frankel spreadeagled his rivals in the 2000 Guineas (Steve Parsons/PA)

A 14-race career that had not a blemish, and included 10 Group Ones, there is not much new that can be said about Frankel, who might have been the late, great Sir Henry Cecil’s finest work. While possibly not his best performance on the book, his 2000 Guineas demolition job, perfectly accompanied by astonished commentator Ian Bartlett screaming “he’s 15 lengths clear”, will live long in the memory. Having carried all before him at a mile, he stepped up to 10 furlongs and was just as effective, leaving a host of Group One winners in his wake at York in the Juddmonte International, sponsored by his owner.

Zafonic (Andre Fabre)

Zafonic bursts clear to win the 2000 Guineas in 1993
Zafonic bursts clear to win the 2000 Guineas in 1993 (Fiona Hanson/PA)

His spell of brilliance did not last as long as some, but on his day Zafonic was right up with the best. Unfortunately for his connections he was a precocious type and would never hit the heights once promised, but he did win the 2000 Guineas. Unbeaten at two, he won three Group Ones in the Prix Morny, Prix de la Salamandre and the Dewhurst at Newmarket. He lost his unbeaten record first time out at three to Kingmambo, but bolted up back at Newmarket, breaking a long-standing course record. On his only other start he burst a blood vessel in the Sussex Stakes and was subsequently retired.

Commander In Chief (Sir Henry Cecil)

Sir Henry Cecil (left) enjoyed some great days with Khalid Abdullah
Sir Henry Cecil (left) enjoyed some great days with Khalid Abdullah (Phil Cole/PA)

A typical late bloomer. Unraced at two, Commander In Chief even ran in Abdullah’s second colours for his finest hour, when winning the Derby in 1993. Having won three small races, Cecil opted to go for the Derby, a race in which he already had the Abdullah-owned odds-on favourite Tenby. However, the market leader could finish only 10th as Commander In Chief and Mick Kinane charged to an impressive victory. He went on to follow up in the Irish Derby.

Midday (Sir Henry Cecil)

Sir Henry Cecil with Tom Queally and Midday at Goodwood
Sir Henry Cecil with Tom Queally and Midday at Goodwood (Max Nash/PA)

The majestic Midday won just one of her four juvenile outings, but really came into her own as she got older, finishing second in the Oaks at Epsom and third in the Irish equivalent, before bagging her first Group One in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. Another six top-level successes were to follow, including two more wins in the Nassau and a day to remember in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

Arrogate (Bob Baffert)

Arrogate has won more prize-money than any other horse
Arrogate has won more prize-money than any other horse (Asuncion Pineyrua/Juddmonte)

Abdullah’s success is far from confined to Europe – and his colours have been carried to many big-race victories in America, where undoubtedly his best performer has been Arrogate. Despite failing to run in any of the Triple Crown races, he was champion three-year-old in 2016 – courtesy of a five-race winning streak culminating in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He then went on to win the inaugural Pegasus World Cup before winning the Dubai World Cup, taking his career earnings to more than £13.5million.