Qatar's Al Shaqab Racing to nearly double European string

By Cornelius LysaghtBBC horse racing correspondent
Sheikh Joaan al Thani and Frankie Detorri
Qatar's ruling family, the Al Thanis, will have close to 600 horses in competition

Sheikh Joaan al Thani of Qatar's Al Shaqab Racing is to increase its string of horses in Europe in 2015 by nearly 50% to 170 with half in training in Britain.

The remainder will be stabled in France where Al Shaqab's star filly Treve is being aimed at an historic third successive victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe next autumn.

In a further investment in British racing, Al Shaqab is to take over the sponsorship of the whole of Newbury's Lockinge Stakes dayexternal-link in May.

That marks the operation's first such deal and means the value of the Group One feature, staged over a mile, is to leap by 64% to £350,000.

And Harry Herbert, racing manager for the Sheikh, a brother of the Emir of Qatar, hinted at more to come - though he declined to go into specifics.

Herbert said: "Al Shaqab has aspirations to do a lot more, and is looking at other opportunities which I can't go into at the moment.

"Sheikh Joaan is excited about not only racing horses in Britain, but supporting the sport here in other ways too."

Treve (L) ridden by Thierry Jarnet
Treve (L) ridden my Thierry Jarnet won her second Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp

He added that John Gosden would be joining amongst others Richard Hannon, Sir Michael Stoute, William Haggas and Luca Cumani on Al Shaqab's British training roster with 10 yearlings heading his way.

A cheque for £500,000 has been presented to the Injured Jockeys' Fund based on the prize-money won by 20 designated horses. It is one of the charity's biggest donations, and will help towards funding the Jack Berry Houseexternal-link rehabilitation centre in North Yorkshire.

During the recently ended Flat racing season, as well as the Arc success of Treve, Al Shaqab, for whom Frankie Dettori is number one rider, enjoyed a number of high profile wins by horses including Olympic Glory, The Wow Signal and Osaila.

Though Qatar is perhaps best known in the sporting world for its footballing connections, its influence in horse racing has grown out of all recognition in recent years.

As well as Sheikh Joaan, his cousins, headed by Sheikh Fahad, will have over 300 horses racing around the globe under the Qatar Racingexternal-link banner. One, the Andrew Balding-trained Elm Park, is a leading hope for the Epsom Derby.

In all, members of Qatar's ruling family, the Al Thanis, will have close to 600 - almost all with gilt-edged pedigrees - competing in their silks.

Their big-money presence has provided a major boost for the thoroughbred breeding industry.