By Laura Donnellan, School of Law, University of Limerick, Ireland
It was announced at a press conference on 25 January 2017, at the Dorchester Hotel in London, that Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club and the Breeders’ Cup will be exchanging sponsorship titles at their respective events.
In a partnership that will begin at the end of February 2017, the Breeders’ Cup will sponsor a race at Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club’s H.H. Emir’s Sword Festival at the Al Rayyan racecourse in Doha, and Qatar Racing will sponsor the Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes at the Breeders’ Cup Championships in November 2017, which will take place at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in San Diego, California.
The partnership is a major coup for Qatar Racing Ltd, a subsidiary of QIPCO Holding (Qatar Investment and Projects Development Holding Company, http://www.qipco.com.qa/), which was established in 2012. QIPCO, according to its website, has a paid up share capital of 300 million Qatar Rial, which is approximately £65.56 million. It has diverse interests, including real estate, oil and gas, construction, finance and health. QIPCO was set up in 1999. Prior to the establishment of Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, Sheikh Fahad owned and raced horses under the name of Pearl Bloodstock (http://www.qatarracingltd.com/about/history/). Pearl Bloodstock Ltd, which was founded in 2010, is still in operation and represents Sheikh Fahad’s “personal racing and bloodstock interests (http://www.qatarracingltd.com/about/pearl-bloodstock/). When the Sheikh’s brothers became involved in horse racing, along with the Chief Executive of QIPCO, Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani, Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club came into existence (http://www.qatarracingltd.com/about/history/).
Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club trains horses throughout the world including Britain, Australia, the United States and Ireland. In Ireland, it registered with the Companies Registration Office on 27 January 2014 under the Companies Act 1963 to 2012 (now repealed and codified in the Companies Act 2014). The company is called Qatar Bloodstock Ireland Limited, a single member company, limited by shares and based in County Limerick.
The Breeders’ Cup World Championships began in 1984 and took place in Hollywood Park, Inglewood, in California. Originally, it was a one day event with seven races. At the inaugural race, it attracted 64,254 spectators with a handle of US$19,476,050 (http://www.breederscup.com/year/1984).
The Breeders’ Cup attracts the world’s top horses and trainers. In the 16th Breeders’ Cup Championship in 1999, there were eight races and a handle of US$100,336,23 and an attendance of 45,124 (http://www.breederscup.com/year/1999). Each year, the location changes and, in 2016, it was held over two days with thirteen races in Santa Anita Park in California; on day one, it attracted a crowd of 45,673 and a handle of just under $60 million; on day two, the handle was just over $109 million with just under 73, 000 people in attendance (http://www.breederscup.com/year/2016).
The Breeders’ Club will sponsor the Dukhan Sprint on 25 February 2017 at the three day H.H. Emir’s Sword Festival (23, 24 and 25 February in Doha). According to the Chief Executive of Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, the H.H. Emir’s Sword Festival is Qatar’s “flagship international race of the year” (George Dudley, “Breeders’ Cup announces Qatari Racing partnership”, 26 Jan. 2017, http://www.sportspromedia.com/news/breeders_cup_announces_qatari_racing_partnership). A representative of the Breeders’ Cup will present the trophy to the winner.
On 4 November 2017, Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club will sponsor the Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes at Del Mar with a representative presenting the trophy to the winner of the race. The Breeders’ Club Dukhan Sprint and the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes will be the official names of the two races.
Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club and the Breeders’ Cup Championship view the partnership as being mutually beneficial. For Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, it demonstrates a “commitment to excelling at the sport” according to its General Manager, Nasser Sherida al-Kaabi (“Qatar is showing intent to excel in racing on world stage, says QREC GM Al-Kaabi”, Gulf Times, (26 Jan. 2017), http://menafn.com/1095215806/Qatar-is-showing-intent-to-excel-in-racing-on-world-stage-says-QREC-GM-al-Kaabi). Mr Al-Kaabi added that the Breeders’ Championship is “one of the most iconic international race meetings in the world” (George Dudley, ibid).
Mr Al-Kaabi asserted that the partnership expressly shows the dedication Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club has to building its international reputation. He stated that:
“Breeders’ Cup is a great brand in America and to have a joint venture is very important for us. It gives out the message that we are in the racing world to be one of the major competitors. Likewise, our association with Royal Ascot and Goodwood gives out the message that we are serious” (Gulf Times, ibid.)
Equally, the President and CEO of the Breeders’ Cup, Craig Fravel, highlighted the importance of the collaboration for the Breeders’ Cup in elevating its “international presence with similar calibre thoroughbred racing leaders around the world” (Press Release, “Breeders’ Cup and Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club Announce Partnership”, 25 Jan. 2017, http://www.breederscup.com/article/breeders-cup-and-qatar-racing-and-equestrian-club-announce-partnership). Another significant factor for Fravel is the quality of thoroughbred horses, in particular, the Arab horse. Mr Fravel stated: “The Arab horse is the foundation of the entire thoroughbred breed so the connection is a very important one” (Gulf Times, ibid).
It would seem that the partnership is going to be long term, although no exact details were given at the press conference in London. It is probable that the partnership will continue for a number of years in order for both sides to reap the benefits. The Breeders’ Cup in 2018 at Churchill Downs will, no doubt, feature the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes, whilst the Breeders’ Cup Dukhan Sprint will be a highlight of the H.H. Emir’s Sword Festival in February 2018.
Although there is no financial commitment involved in the partnership, sponsorship deals may well follow, as the relationship progresses. Simon Ward asserts that the reciprocal agreement “is likely to prompt an increase in the number of horses from USA and Qatar competing in races in each other’s countries, and could pave the way for more high-profile sponsorship deals as the relationship between the racing organisations develops” (Simon Ward, “Qatar and Breeders’ Cup target international benefits from sponsorship exchange”, 25 Jan. 2017, http://www.sportcal.com/News/FeaturedNews/108754).