Racing: Abdullah able to prove a breed apart: The man from Juddmonte keeps close control of the cream of Europe's Classic crop. Richard Edmondson reports

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The Independent Online
HIS ADVISORS talk about Khalid Abdullah as a 'hands-on' boss. The sort of man who probably knows how many paper-clips are needed in the running of his racing empire.

Grant Pritchard-Gordon, the racing manager to the Saudi Arabian owner, hardly ever conducts an interview without including the mantra, 'the final decision will come from Prince Khalid'. And Rhydian Morgan-Jones, another in the cohort gathered under the umbrella title of Juddmonte Farms, describes a man who burrows into every facet of his racing operation. 'From the accounts, to the breeding programme, to the racing or stud activities, he knows precisely what is going on,' Morgan-Jones says. 'He pays a great deal of attention to detail.'

This attention has put Abdullah rather uneasily into the spotlight this year. A slight and reticent figure at the racecourse, he stands on the verge of becoming Britain's most influential owner since the days when the Aga Khan III towered over the sport between the Wars.

It was the Aga Khan who last owned the first two in a Derby, when Mahmoud and Taj Akbar made up the forecast in the 1936 Classic, and Abdullah has opportunities to repeat this feat, with Tenby as a warm favourite for Epsom, and Commander In Chief and Armiger waiting as back-up.

As the first cousin to King Fahd, Saudi Arabia's ruler, also owns Wemyss Bight, the Oaks favourite, and Regency, a leading player in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby), plus a rather useful miler called Zafonic, there are grounds to believe this is to be something of an annus mirabilis.

Morgan-Jones, the managing director of Juddmonte's Eagle Lane Farm in Newmarket, believes that though this season is a one-off, it is the natural product of a good system. 'It's a bit like making wine,' he says. 'You do the same thing year after year, then one year it's better than usual.

'I think Prince Khalid has got a good team (which may be a slightly biased observation when you're a member of it). It works well from the moment the matings are planned, to the horses being brought up, to the time they're broken, sent to the trainers and finally the jockey (Pat Eddery) that rides them. I'm sure it's the package that works.'

The Abdullah modus operandi has changed in recent seasons. Formerly a high roller at such as the Keeneland Sales in Kentucky, the state that contains one of his many studs, the owner now tries to create champions from his existing stocks.

'For the last four or five years he has concentrated on trying to breed good ones rather than spending a lot of money trying to buy them,' Morgan- Jones says. 'That's where he gets the pleasure from, the fun of breeding a good horse, which is quite different to buying it.'

Abdullah's hegemony this term follows years of patiently establishing a quality broodmare base of about 150 horses. 'The mares are kept at Wargrave (in Berkshire) and the stallions stand at the Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket,' Morgan-Jones says. 'We have Rainbow Quest and Warning there, standing alongside Generous.

'The stallions are discussed before a first draft of all the mating arrangements, but it is Prince Khalid who always has the final say and he knows all his mares. He knows them as mares and not as names on bits of paper.

'His policy is to complement a family's natural attributes. If you have a fast family, he likes to continue to introduce fast horses into the breeding.'

The formula that produced Tenby, Armiger and Commander In Chief this year then involves young horses being reared in the rich fields of Ireland. 'When the foals are weaned they go to two studs in Ireland, either the New Abbey in Kildare or the Ferrans in Co Meath, where all the breaking-in and initial training work is done,' Morgan-Jones says. 'Ireland has several advantages for horses. It has good land, it has an earlier spring and the horses always seem to do well there.'

This brand of nurturing has produced remarkable results in 1993, and there are even some who believe horses bearing the Abdullah pink and green silks will win four of the five Classics this season. The man from Juddmonte would like to say yes to that.

(Photograph omitted)