Racing: Racing shaken to the core by Sheikh's ultimatum

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The Independent Online
The Maktoum family, whose huge string of horses have become the modern bedrock of the British turf, last night threatened to pull out of the country because of racing's ''chronic underfunding''.

Sheikh Mohammed gave the warning to the Gimcrack Dinner in York, making clear the threat came also from his three brothers, Maktoum, Hamdan and Ahmed. The text was delivered on his behalf by an advisor, Michael Osborne.

''I am not holding a gun to anyone's head, but nor am I making an empty threat,'' the Sheikh said. ''It would be ludicrous for my brothers and I to pretend we were down to our last three camels, but we can no longer go on as we have before.''

He added: ''Unless we see positive signs of progress and the possibility of change we will massively reduce our racing and breeding presence in Britain and resign ourselves to racing in countries which bring us less pleasure but make more economic sense.''

The Sheikh and his family have dominated British racing for nearly 20 years. Their horses populate the top Flat training centres, and a large- scale cut-back would trigger a major crisis in the industry, not least of which would be extensive unemployment.