Qatar rac­ing team slashes con­tract

Arab News - - SPORTS - ARAB NEWS

LON­DON: The Al-Shaqab Rac­ing op­er­a­tion has come un­der fur­ther fi­nan­cial scru­tiny af­ter news emerged that it has halved the con­tract of its lead­ing jockey.

Ac­cord­ing to The Times, three­time Cham­pion jockey Frankie Dettori has had his six-fig­ure con­tract with Al-Shaqab re­duced by 50 per­cent in a move that comes weeks af­ter the same pa­per re­vealed the op­er­a­tion owed more than £1 mil­lion ($1.4 mil­lion) in un­paid fees to a num­ber of Bri­tain’s lead­ing flat rac­ing train­ers. Al-Shaqab Rac­ing, which runs a 170-horse op­er­a­tion, is fronted by Sheikh Joaan Al-Thani, the brother of the emir of Qatar.

Dettori joined Al-Shaqab in July 2013 af­ter end­ing his 18-year as­so­ci­a­tion with the Godol­phin sta­bles, owned by Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid, in Oc­to­ber 2012. He was handed a six-fig­ure con­tract by the Qataris to ride horses in Bri­tain in­clud­ing Galileo Gold to English Guineas and Royal As­cot glory and Olympic Glory to the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes, but that has now been rene­go­ti­ated af­ter Al-Shaqab shifted much of its fo­cus to France.

“They have re­duced the num­ber of horses by 50 per­cent in Bri­tain and the con­tract makes al­lowance for that,” Peter Bur­rell, Dettori’s agent, told The Times. “It would be cor­rect to say that (the re­tainer) was a sub­stan­tial six-fig­ure sum,” Bur­rell said.

News of Dettori’s re­vised oneyear con­tract comes on the back of re­ports that Al-Shaqab owed more than £1 mil­lion in a back­log of un­paid in­voices, in­clud­ing Dettori and a num­ber of lead­ing train­ers. Al-Shaqab apol­o­gized to the train­ers to whom it owed money when The Times broke the story, but the cash cri­sis is likely to be a source of em­bar­rass­ment for Sheikh Joaan.

“It’s an un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion that has put us all in some dif­fi­culty,” one trainer told The Guardian. “Ob­vi­ously there must be money. They’re one of the rich­est states in the world. I don’t know what the prob­lem has been. I’ve had to ask my bank to ex­tend the over­draft.”

Khal­ifa Al-At­tiyah, the gen­eral man­ager and a close as­so­ciate of Sheikh Joaan, blamed an or­ga­ni­za­tional re­struc­tur­ing and an ac­count­ing re­view for the back­log in pay­ments, deny­ing it was be­cause of Qatar’s diplo­matic cri­sis.

“The block­ade against Qatar had many con­se­quences so­cially and po­lit­i­cally but not for this sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “This is purely an is­sue due to the fi­nan­cial re­view tak­ing longer than ex­pected. We do apol­o­gize and it is not some­thing we wanted to hap­pen or take lightly. We are in the mid­dle of re­struc­tur­ing the whole or­ga­ni­za­tion.” He said all in­voices would be paid “in the com­ing weeks.”

The Times re­ports that only some have been paid in full while oth­ers have re­ceived par­tial amounts. One lead­ing New­mar­ket trainer said that he had been paid about one third of what he was owed, which amounted to more than £200,000.

At the be­gin­ning of the month, when the cash-flow story was first pub­lished, Dettori was un­der­stood not to have been paid since Au­gust, The Times re­ported. It is not known whether that un­paid bill has since been set­tled.

Frankie Dettori has seen his pay cut by the Al-Shaqab Rac­ing op­er­a­tion. (Reuters)

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