Racing: Even Maktoums cannot resist yen as Lammtarra goes east

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The Independent Online
From Newmarket this week and on through Goodwood and York, the Pattern will once again sort out the season's best horses, but for the finest of all, it now seems, there is often one final - very final - destination.

It was confirmed yesterday that Lammtarra, winner of the Derby, King George and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last year, has been sold for $30m to continue his stud career in Japan. He is the fifth consecutive Derby winner to head east, and the insulated structure of the industry in his new home will ensure that European racegoers have little chance to see his offspring on the track. He leaves behind the products of a single covering season, and if any should even come close to matching his achievements, his loss to British breeding will be felt even more keenly.

Lammtarra, who was owned by one of Sheikh Mohammed's nephews, was one of the last sons of Nijinsky, the most recent colt to complete the Triple Crown. He was also the only product of a Derby winner and Oaks winner - Snow Bride - to succeed in the Epsom Classic.

While his loss is a desperate blow for British breeders, however, the disappointment with which many received the news was tempered with realism.

"Of course it's sad," Rhydian Morgan-Jones, chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, said yesterday, "but it shows that if you've got huge prize-money, the breeding industry will polarise around it. Why should the Maktoums or anyone else subsidise British breeding by turning down offers like this? With the amount of money they've put in, they're entitled to take a few quid out now and again. You have to."

Yet when even the Maktoums cannot stand up to the yen, no one can deny that racing's power axis has shifted significantly. "The Japanese get a 15 per cent return on their betting while we get 1.2 per cent," Michael Oswald, the Queen's stud manager, said. "They've got real purchasing power, and every horse has a price."

Whether $30m is the right price remains to be seen. "Eight out of every 10 stallions which go to stud are going to be no good, no matter how well bred they are," Morgan-Jones said. If Lammtarra's first - and only - British crop end their days in juvenile selling hurdles at Plumpton, the glow of satisfaction from the Sheikh's headquarters will be warm enough to heat every home in Newmarket.

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