Coral’s Q&A with Al Shaqab racing manager Harry Herbert ahead of Glorious Goodwood
Since purchasing Olympic Glory in 2012, Sheikh Joaan Al Thani has made a huge splash in European racing with his Al Shaqab Racing operation sending out numerous winners and collecting some of the sport’s biggest prizes.
It is not just horses that Sheikh Joaan has splashed his cash on, with Glorious Goodwood, now restyled as the Qatar Goodwood festival, benefiting from significant sponsorship from the brother to the Emir of Qatar.
Galileo Gold, a winner at the meeting last year for Sheikh Joaan, will be the flagbearer for the owner again at the five-day meeting. Harry Herbert, Al Shaqab’s racing manager, is hoping the three-year-old can shine, and gave updates on some of the operation’s other stars.
Galileo Gold is Al Shaqab’s star runner at Goodwood. How are things with him ahead of the Qatar Sussex Stakes on Wednesday?
He’s always had a lot of natural ability and since Ascot he’s physically done well again. He looks stronger and fuller with less daylight under him. He’s progressing and his work’s been very good. He’s been trained since Ascot for this race as it’s sponsored by his owner and it’s an important race for us. But it’s going to be tough for him again but he’s in good form and we know he acts on the track, which is a big help.
Galileo Gold has won the 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes for you this season. How important a horse has he been for Sheikh Joaan and Al Shaqab?
He’s our first Classic winner in this country and he’s been hugely important. He was bought this time last year because he was a horse who could potentially win the Vintage Stakes. It was the dream start for Sheikh Joaan to have a winner on the first day of his big sponsorship at Goodwood and from there it’s been fantastic. He’s been beautifully handled by Hugo Palmer and his team and he’s a real joy of a horse.
Mehmas has looked a useful juvenile. What is the plan for him at Goodwood?
He’s a very tough horse and a joy to be around. He was well bought by Ross Doyle at the breeze-up sales and he’s a really tough horse. He ran a wonderful race at Ascot and was beaten by a bit of a monster in Caravaggio, but he beat the rest comprehensively and it was great to nail the Group 2 in the July Stakes. He carries a penalty but he is probably a worthy favourite for the Richmond Stakes as he has plenty of speed.
Easton Angel was just pipped at York last time. Will she be lining up at Goodwood?
York was agony! Everyone was beating themselves up including the jockey, who thought he might have gone too soon. She’s a very nice, improving filly and physically doing very well. She’s incredibly fast and she has raw speed but can quicken off it over five furlongs; it’s a pretty lethal weapon to have. The King George at Goodwood has long been on the cards for her and it’s quite possible she’ll go for the Nunthorpe after that.
Qemah was an impressive winner at Royal Ascot last month. Where will we see her next?
The French side of things has gone very well this year. Qemah’s a very impressive filly. She burnt herself out in the French 1,000 Guineas by doing too much too soon and the tank emptied at the critical moment. Ascot really suited her and she was very impressive and she’ll go for the Prix Rothschild at Deauville next and then we’ll go from there.
Zelzal looked a horse with huge ability when winning the Prix Jean Prat. What are you hoping to do next with him?
Zelzal just didn’t turn up in the French 2,000 Guineas, it was bizarre. He’s a seriously good horse and the way he won last time was in the style of something that’s going right to the top. He’ll go for the Prix du Moulin and then we’ll work out autumn plans for him, Galileo Gold and Qemah. We’ll try to keep them apart and it’s a nice problem to have.
You have worked in bloodstock for a number of years and are an expert on the subject. What have you made of Frankel’s start as a stallion?
He’s made an incredible start from a small crop of runners to date. He’s got a lot of very nice horses that need more time and a lot of the Frankel’s we saw at the sales were more autumn two-year-olds or three-year-olds in the making. I think it’s fantastic he’s done so well. Everyone was rude about his yearlings and saying he wasn’t stamping them and we were thinking the more that people bang on about that the better he’ll be, and I couldn’t be happier that that’s the case! Al Shaqab have got a couple of very nice Frankel’s in the mix that we have high hopes for and they should be out in the next month or so. It’s great for the sport.
And, finally, alongside your role with Al Shaqab you also run the highly successful Highclere Racing syndicates. Which of those horses are you most looking forward to?
Opposition is a nice horse who runs at Ascot on Saturday and Foundation is one we still think a lot of. He was a naughty boy when he ran in France last time and he’s been gelded. He’s come out of that well and he goes for the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock in a couple of weeks. He’s a very talented horse and if the gelding has done the trick and got him focused then potentially he has big prize-money earning potential and globetrotting potential too, which is exciting for everyone involved.