Amer Abdulaziz is involved in racing on a worldwide scale, but there is no doubt the founder of the Phoenix Thoroughbreds operation ranks a winner at Royal Ascot above all others .
Set up as an investment fund, Phoenix tasted success last year with the John Quinn-trained Signora Cabello in the Queen Mary Stakes – a victory that left Dubai-based businessman and racing enthusiast Abdulaziz wanting more.
With the string growing all the time, the Ascot raiding party will double from three to a possible six this season – and Abdulaziz believes the publicity and kudos that comes with winning there is unmatched.
“It was a dream come true to win at Royal Ascot. From my point of view winning at Royal Ascot was better than winning any Derby in the world,” he said.
“There’s no doubt about it – Royal Ascot attracts the best horses in the world. The form is very strong, the capital gains are huge – and the prize-money, while not the best in the world, is still not bad compared to other races.
“With Ascot it is not about the prize-money – if I had to put it in a private equity term it is the capital gain that comes with the win. Also the publicity – winning a race there puts you on the map on an international stage.
“Ascot is watched in Australia, America, South America – all the countries in which we operate.
“Royal Ascot is a huge event for all the international breeders, which is why you see all the big organisations concentrating on Royal Ascot.
“The excitement, the glamour, the speed, the fashion – and when all that is put together over five days you have an amazing event.”
Victory in the Queen Mary 12 months ago increased interest in the fund, which has allowed them to further invest, and they have certainly rewarded Quinn in no uncertain terms.
“Signora Cabello definitely helped us to get better known. We had a lot of enquiries after she won, just the same as what happened in the Middle East after nearly winning the Dubai World Cup with Gronkowski,” said Abdulaziz.
“Loyalty is very important to me. Any trainer that performs well will get our support. John Quinn really delivered for us, which is why we’ve supported him with another seven top-quality horses.”
There is no doubt what Phoenix are trying to achieve is a new model in the racing world – but the early signs are positive.
Abdulaziz said: “We operate as a fund, so we have an investment committee and an advisory committee, and we work together.
“The advisory committee, who I call the ‘horsey’ committee, consists of Tom Ludt in America and Dermot Farrington, a well-known bloodstock agent. There are also people that nobody knows are part of Phoenix – 15 of them sitting at the back like our soldiers.
“We spread our wings with different trainers in different areas to minimise risk. We have John Quinn and Karl Burke in the north, Robert Cowell, Peter Chapple-Hyam and Ed Vaughan in Newmarket and Martyn Meade at Manton, as well as Joseph O'Brien and John Oxx in Ireland.”
Members of Phoenix are investors and not all are racing fanatics, so the risks involved are clearly explained to them beforehand.
It is phase two of the plan which is exciting Abdulaziz more than anything, however.
He said: “Every time we have a horse with a setback it is very frustrating, not just for the investors. We have a PPM – private placement memorandum – so that all the investors know the risk associated, but we also mention the reward. The higher the risk, the higher the reward.
“The racing part of our operation is not huge – about 60 per cent of our operation is forecasting on the breeding side, which a lot of people don’t know.
“Soon you’ll be seeing our yearlings through the ring by stallions like Frankel, Kingman and Galileo – top quality that we are offering, which is the focus for our investors.
“Yes we race, and there is a huge risk involved in racing, but we are doing it to promote the fund. The racing is phase one really.”
Action on the track comes first, though, and a team of six is possible this year – with last year’s heroine among them.
“This time we are going back to Ascot with more horses. Last year we had a winner and a second from just three runners – Advertise ran so well in the Coventry.
“We’ll have six this year, and hopefully we can repeat what happened last year -and if it happens that’s a bonus.
“Signora Cabello (King’s Stand) is going back, along with Advertise (St James’s Palace/Commonwealth Cup), while King Ademar and Dubai Dominion might run in the Britannia. Sands Of Mali (Diamond Jubilee) and Back To Brussels (Queen Mary) should also run.
“Our horses are doing well worldwide – touch wood, we can’t complain. Gronkowski has been great for us, and every time I watch a replay of the World Cup I get goosebumps thinking he is going to win.
“He has been unlucky, finishing second in two Group Ones, but he has the potential still – and we are preparing him for the Pegasus in America, before going back to the World Cup.
“He has a beautiful pedigree, by the Australian stallion Lonhro, and he is the sort of horse you want as a stallion – because you can shuttle him to both hemispheres.
“His value is going up and up. He’s valued at $10 million, and he’s already made $3 million.”