Royal Ascot: Gronkowski’s Owner Looks to the Stars after Upset Win

Racing
Amer Abdulaziz, founder of Phoenix Thoroughbreds, celebrates Gronkowski’s runner-up finish in the June 9 Belmont Stakes. (ABR Films)

By Geoffrey Riddle, courtesy of Racing UK.

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It is easy to boast in the glory of victory, but Amer Abdulaziz may have got a little carried away after recent purchase Signora Cabello edged out Coolmore’s Gossamer Wings in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 20.

Abdulaziz’s Phoenix Thoroughbreds, who finished second in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets on June 9 with Gronkowski, stepped in a week ago to buy a 75 percent stake in Signora Cabello. The daughter of Camacho, with Oisin Murphy aboard, carried Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ white and orange-starred silks to a famous first Royal Ascot success. They look like silks to keep a note of.

Phoenix Thoroughbreds has risen from obscurity faster than the mythological bird, and, standing in the winner’s enclosure here, the Bahrain-born CEO outlined his hopes to use the landmark win to lift him to the stars.

“We need to dominate globally,” he said. “We want to be the same level as Coolmore and Godolphin. We have a four-year plan. We have 150 horses within a year.”

He added: “We always set targets and we are going for it. It is very ambitious but you don’t get anywhere without trying. You have to believe."

In an interview with the Dubai Racing Channel during the winter, Abdulaziz suggested he was prepared to spend around £100 million on stallions. It is a fine start, but it is a mere drop in the bloodstock ocean.

Beating Coolmore in a Group 2 juvenile sprint is one thing. Overhauling a worldwide behemoth in four years is quite another.

Coolmore has 500 mares alone in Ireland, not to mention their various stallion operations around the world, all held together by the leading international sire, Galileo. It has taken over 50 years to build that empire.

Darley, Sheikh Mohammed’s breeding operation, has grown quite quickly in comparative terms, and accelerated through the start of the century. Purchases of Jonabell Farm in Kentucky in 2001, expansion in to Japan a year later, and sweeping buys of Kelvinside Stud and Northwood Park in Australia have placed it in the top echelons. That's not to mention the careful husbandry displayed by the likes of the Aga Khan and Juddmonte Farms.

Where Coolmore have surged behind financial backing from Robert Sangster, John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, and Darley have been powered by sovereign wealth, Abdulaziz has amassed an investment group.

Abdulaziz, who is a financier when not planning domination of the equine world, claims he has a fund registered in Luxembourg with a head office in Dubai. His focus is primarily in America, where Gronkowski, named after the NFL all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, ran a massive race for Phoenix Thoroughbreds to finish second to Justify in the Belmont Stakes. Rob Gronkowski purchased a minority interest in his namesake horse this spring.

Among the 150 horses he has accumulated over the past 12 months, he has spread them around England, Ireland, France, Australia and New Zealand. Doing so keeps the trainers on their toes, he explained. A collection of around a dozen are planned for the Dubai Carnival, where he spends his time during the winter.

Abdulaziz studied finance at the University Of California, Berkeley. His first love was Purebred Arabian horses, but while attending college close to Golden Gate Fields, it must have been easy to stray to the track. We’ve all done it.

Abdulaziz has put together a dedicated team, but the cracks appeared earlier in the year and have run on. Top jockey Gerald Mosse came and left, and was quickly followed by Kerri Radcliffe. From there, Walk In The Sun, who was sixth in the Jersey Stakes behind Expert Eye, tested positive for cocaine.

Signora Cabello must have felt like a balm to a wound.

“We acquired her two weeks before the race,” he said. “She is a beautiful filly, we have been watching her and we then went after her.

"We have our own team that looks at horses all the time and they came back and said this is a horse we need to buy. I said, let’s go for it.”

He is decisive, if nothing else. And good luck to him.

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