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The rise of Phoenix Thoroughbreds

7 min read
Just 18 months after bursting onto the global thoroughbred scene, Phoenix Thoroughbreds is making good on its promise to be one of the emerging powerhouses of the industry.

The brainchild of Bahraini-born and Dubai-based businessman Amer Abdulaziz, Phoenix Thoroughbreds has sourced backing through its unique investment fund model to make a huge splash at bloodstock sales around the world, including Australia.

Since the start of 2017, Phoenix has acquired over 150 horses, spending nearly A$50 million across UK, Europe, USA and Australia.

Amer Abdulaziz with Tom Ludt, USA Head of Operations for Phoenix

Globally, Phoenix's best horses have already made headlines with 2-year-old filly Signora Cabello (Ire) (Camacho {GB}) winning the G2 Queen Mary S at Royal Ascot, while Gronkowski, by Australia's own Lonhro, ran second in the Belmont S behind Triple Crown winner Justify.

The Bob Baffert-trained Dream Tree (USA) (Uncle Mo {USA}) and Martyn Meade-trained Advertise (GB) (Showcasing {GB}) both won Group 1 races as 2-year-olds for Phoenix. Dream Tree was a winner of the Starlet Stakes (G1) and Las Virgenes Stakes (G2), while Advertise took out The Curragh’s G1 Keeneland Phoenix S. last month.

"It’s been a wonderful year," Adbulaziz told TDN AusNZ. "It's all an exciting time and we keep adding more horses all the time."

Phoenix has already had a handful of runners in Australia, with 14 horses currently with trainers including David Vandyke, Ciaron Maher and Toby Edmonds.

"We are looking for stallions in Australia and he's a Group 1 horse, by a proven sire. We loved the horse and that's why we invested in him," Amer Abdulaziz on Invader.

The Vandyke-trained filly Hard As (All Too Hard {Aus}), a $210,000 buy at the 2017 Easter Sales, became the first Australian winner under their ownership at the Sunshine Coast in February.

Two other 3-year-olds trained by Vandyke for Phoenix Thoroughbreds are also highly rated by Abdulaziz. Miss Quaintly (More Than Ready {USA}) has won two from three starts, while Asharani (I Am Invincible {Aus}), has had one start for a win at Ipswich.

Miss Quaintly was bought for $280,000 by Phoenix's agent David Lucas at the National Yearling Sale, while Asharani was a $440,000 buy at the Easter Sale.

Hard As was the first Australian winner for the Phoenix operation and a $210,000 Inglis Easter purchase

Building the breed

But the emphasis in Australia to date has been on breeding, something Abdulaziz sees as a huge strength in the local industry.

"With Australia, the set-up is different from Europe and America. We started with the broodmares. We have about 35 of them. We have more focus on the breeding side in Australia," he said.

Among those bought at the Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale in May were Red Fez (Red Ransom (USA}), a stakes-placed mare who is close relation to stallions Deep Field and Shooting To Win. In foal to Snitzel, she was purchased for $470,000.

Phoenix have also been in the stallion market as well, taking a share in the G1 winning son of Snitzel, Invader, ahead of his first season at Aquis.

"We have invested in Invader. We have about 25 per cent. We are looking for stallions in Australia and he's a Group 1 horse, by a proven sire. We loved the horse and that's why we invested in him," Abdulaziz said.

That strategy mirrors what has been happening in Europe, where Phoenix took a 50 per cent share in Aclaim (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) ahead of his first season at the National Stud.

Phoenix also teamed up with Aquis, as well as Yulong Investments and Ciaron Maher, at this year's Magic Millions Yearling Sale to pay $1.6 million for another son of Snitzel, who is a full brother to Newgate stallion and G1 winner Sizzling.

Phoenix were part of the syndicate who paid $1.6 million for the full brother to Sizzling at the 2018 Magic Millions

It also acquired a lifetime breeding right in Yarraman Park's star stallion I Am Invincible at the Chairman's Sale, a deal that was brokered by respected Irish agent Dermot Farrington.

"Australia is the second biggest market after the USA, and the prizemoney is huge there. We are giving it a lot of attention and focus." - Abdulaziz

With such a heavy involvement in the progeny of Australia's top two sires, Snitzel and I Am Invincible, it's clear Adbulaziz is positioning himself at the top of the market.

And Phoenix is keen to be involved in in all aspects of the selling game, including pinhooking, raising $1 million with the sale of four yearlings at this year's Magic Millions in January.

What’s next?

The next 12 months promise more of the same, but with more focus on finding potential champions on the track as well.

"We will be acquiring more yearlings and 2-year olds and some more broodmares to add to our band. We are hoping to raise more of our horses there," Adbulaziz said when asked about the plans for 2019.

"We are always acquiring horses privately, so that's what we are doing in Australia too. The two-year olds with good pedigree that have the potential, we are looking at them as well."

Abdulaziz sees enormous upside in the investment in Australia, with the racing operation a key strategic pillar in any success moving forward.

"Slowly we are building that operation, but it’s going to be a huge operation. Australia is the second biggest market after the USA, and the prizemoney is huge there. We are giving it a lot of attention and focus," he said.

"You have so many Group 1 races and prizemoney is half a billion a year. The market is very healthy in Australia."

The quality of yearlings, especially with the strength of the stallions now shuttling to Australia, also appeals greatly to Phoenix as does the relatively affordability of yearlings when compared to overseas.

"I'm very passionate about horse racing worldwide and I'm very passionate about the thoroughbred industry in general." - Abdulaziz

The passion behind it all

Underpinning all that investment is Abdulaziz's passion for horses. Raised on an Arabian farm in Bahrain, he told TDN in an earlier interview that his love of thoroughbred racing came from his time in the USA.

“I had a good friend who was racing thoroughbreds so I went with him to all the races and started reading about the whole thoroughbred industry and building my own knowledge and database," he said.

"When I graduated I went into the corporate world, and decided no, this isn’t what I’m going to do, I’m going to go back to horses. That’s where the fund idea came from."

"We certainly have the goal of winning our first Australian Group 1 race." - Abdulaziz on Australian aspirations

Phoenix invested in first season Aquis sire Invader

He elaborated on that in his interview with TDN AusNZ, saying that he saw a lot of that same passion in those who are involved in the industry in Australia.

"I'm very passionate about horse racing worldwide and I'm very passionate about the thoroughbred industry in general. I grew up on a farm back home with Arabian horses and I celebrate that," he said.

"(In Australia), there are lot of people are involved in the industry and a lot of people who are not in the industry, who know a lot about horses as well."

The goals for success

Phoenix Thoroughbreds is unique in that it is funded by a five-year investment process, with the assets, such as stallions, racehorses, broodmares and yearlings, then flowing into subsequent funds.

"We’re not looking to come into the market and liquidate after five years; there will be equine fund numbers one, two, three, four…we’re here to stay,” Abdulaziz has said of the model.

There are obviously commercial goals in place in order to realise returns for the investors, but in terms of Australia, Abdulaziz's short-to-medium goals are fairly straight forward.

"We certainly have the goal of winning our first Australian Group 1 race," he said.

Watch: Invader winning the 2017 Group 1 Sires Produce Stakes