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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.

Prince Khalid Abdullah dies

Leading owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah has died, his Juddmonte Farms operations confirmed.

The Saudi prince has owned and bred some of the greatest equine names the sport has ever seen – with his famous green, pink and white silks carried by the likes of Frankel, Dancing Brave and dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Enable.

Abdullah’s colours were carried to victory by more than 500 Stakes winners, of which he bred over 440 – including 118 Group or Grade One winners, of which he bred 102.

Douglas Erskine Crum, CEO Juddmonte, said in a statement: “The whole of Juddmonte feels a huge sense of loss. Prince Khalid will always be remembered as a quiet, dignified, benevolent family man, whose horses spoke for him.

“He leaves a legacy that will stand the test of time. His contribution to the development of the thoroughbred will have long-lasting effects.”

Abdullah enjoyed his first winner more than 40 years ago, before going on to huge success, winning each of the five British Classics on multiple occasions, including three Derby successes with Quest For Fame (1990), Commander In Chief (1993) and Workforce (2010).

Enable was a superstar for Abdullah
Enable was a superstar for Abdullah (Nigel French/PA)
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He also won the Arc six times in total, and was crowned champion owner in Britain three times.

Teddy Grimthorpe took over as Abdullah’s racing manager in 1999, with his tenure encompassing the Frankel and Enable days in particular, and he said: “I am very sad. He was a monumental man for the world.”

Abdullah’s multitude of winners also included the likes of Kingman, Oasis Dream, Known Fact and Rainbow Quest – with his British breeding operation based at Banstead Manor Stud near Newmarket, and his American Juddmonte farms located near Kentucky.

Annamarie Phelps, chair of the British Horseracing Authority, paid tribute to an “exceptional man”, who died at the age of 83.

She said: “It’s extremely sad to hear of the passing of Prince Khalid Abdullah.

“His name and distinctive racing silks will forever be associated with some of the greatest horses and most unforgettable moments in the sport’s history, from Dancing Brave, to Frankel, Enable and many more.

“His Juddmonte breeding operation has also been a feather in British racing’s cap for many years – and those exceptional bloodlines, which will be enjoyed for generations to come, are a priceless gift to our sport from an exceptional man.

“He will be sadly missed by the racing world.”

Frankel retired unbeaten for Cecil and Abdullah
Frankel retired unbeaten for Cecil and Abdullah (PA)

Lady Jane Cecil, whose late husband Sir Henry Cecil trained the mighty Frankel, said she owed Abdullah “so much”.

“When Teddy Grimthorpe rang to tell me, I was so sad at the news. Prince Khalid was kind and a gentleman and I just owe him so much,” she told Sky Sports Racing.

“The loyalty he gave Henry, I can’t tell you how important that was, especially during those quiet years and then his belief in Henry to send him Frankel. I’ll always be grateful that Henry had him to train in his final years.

“Henry and Prince Khalid did have a special friendship which meant a great deal to Henry. Obviously he was his trainer, but they did have lunch together in London. They were different but they got on very well.”

James Doyle and Noble Mission after an emotional victory in the  Champion Stakes at Ascot in 2014
Lady Cecil with jockey James Doyle and Noble Mission after an emotional victory in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in 2014 (Steve Parsons/PA)

When Sir Henry Cecil died in 2013, his wife Lady Cecil took over the reins at Warren Place. Prince Khalid kept Frankel’s brother Noble Mission in training there and was rewarded with an emotional victory in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot in 2014.

“He was so loyal. Imagine allowing me to train Noble Mission. He’s Frankel’s full-brother,” Lady Cecil went on.

“Allowing me to do that – being loyal and supportive which was an extension of his loyalty to Henry – Warren Place had that fantastic day at Royal Ascot which will live with me forever.”