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Horse racing Europe: the rise of Qatar

Sheikh Joann Al Thani with Treve and Trainer Criquette Head-Maarek on winning 2013 Arc

Ryan Goldberg, New York Times special report on Royal Ascot

For years now at Royal Ascot, the world’s two largest racing outfits, Godolphin and Coolmore, have shown off their embarrassment of equine riches at a meet full of prestige and passionate competition. But as this summer’s Royal Ascot opens Tuesday, the colors of Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family will highlight an encroaching counterbalance to this duopoly.

With nearly unlimited resources and a quickly expanding operation, the Al Shaqab Stable of Sheikh Joaan al-Thani, the brother of the emir of Qatar, and his younger cousin, Sheikh Fahad al-Thani, who races as Qatar Racing or Pearl Bloodstock, have turned European racing on its head in less than three years, paying top dollar for yearlings as well as the best horses in training.

“The Qataris are a new force,” said Andreas Jacobs, a prominent breeder with farms in England, South Africa, and his native Germany. “They are changing the world of thoroughbred racing.”

At Ascot, Sheikh Joaan’s Trêve, the reigning horse of the year, will run in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday, and either Olympic Glory or Toronado probably will feature on the opening day in the Queen Anne Stakes.

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