Qatar racing team slashes contract
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)