The purchase of the Inghams’ thoroughbred breeding and racing empire by the most influential figure in world racing can only be seen as a massive vote of confidence in Australia’s thoroughbred horse racing industry.

Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum is not only the ruler of Dubai, he is also the most influential figure in world breeding and thoroughbred racing today.

After a consortium driven by John Singleton and Lloyd Williams offered Bob Ingham around $300 million for Woodlands Stud, Sheik Mohammed stepped in with an offer Ingham could not refuse – close to $500 million for the lot. Only the famed Ingham cerise racing colours are excluded.

For that money, the Sheik gets around 1,000 horses, two magnificent studs, a pre-training farm and the high class Crown Lodge racing stables in Sydney. Of the 1,000 horses, around 400 are currently in work under the tutelage of the Inghams’ private trainer, Peter Snowden. On any Saturday, Crown Lodge horses are likely to be racing in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide… and a provincial track or two for good measure.

Since Snowden took over as trainer last year he has enjoyed amazing success, winning five of the eight races in Sydney on a recent Saturday. And the acquisition includes Musket, bought for the Inghams for a record $2.5 million, and the Golden Slipper winner, Forensics. And the breeding stock is exceptional – including Australian Horses of the Year, Lonhro and Octagonal.

And when added to his existing, and growing, Darley Stud and racing operation in Australia, the Sheik will dominate Australian racing in the same way that he dominates racing in Northern Europe.

The acquisition has been widely welcomed in the Australian racing industry – with the strongest endorsement coming from Darley’s rivals including Singleton, Williams and Gerry Harvey.

At a time when the industry is still struggling to fully recover from the effects of the equine flu virus, the investment of half a billion in the industry by racing’s most influential figure is a massive vote of confidence. And it is a particular vote of confidence in the breeding sector.

This is a big week for Australian racing. The Magic Millions sale on the Gold Coast will tell what the impact of equine flu and the world financial troubles is having on the breeding sector.

And, in what may be the most significant development of all, the High Court will this week hand down its judgement on the BetFair challenge to the Western Australian laws effectively excluding it from operating in that state. It is widely expected the High Court will rule in BetFair’s favour – and that will send state governments, UniTab and Tabcorp into a spin!

But the Ingham racing sale is a major development. And, on balance, it’s good news for the Australian industry at a time when it’s desperately needed.

Peter Fray

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