It’s been dubbed the “Sport of Kings” – and no wonder given the number of royal families investing in horse racing and competing across the world.
It’s not just for Kings of course. Queen Elizabeth owns several top thoroughbreds and has never missed a day at Royal Ascot – one of the highlights of Britain’s racing and social calendar – since her coronation 64 years ago.
And then there’s Princess Haya bint Hussein of Jordan, a former Olympic show jumper and former president of the International Equestrian Federation, who won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup as an owner with Raven’s Pass in 2008.
But it’s Princess Haya’s husband, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who dominated the royal racing scene in 2017.
Data compiled by myracing.com shows that the Sheikh and various other members of the Al Maktoum family won close to 350 races during the year – that’s more than every other royal family combined – and racked up more than $14 million in prize money.
They entered a remarkable 1,811 races with horses mainly registered to their UK-based Goldophin Stables and also those owned by the Sheikh’s son, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai.
In a racing career spanning four decades, Sheikh Mohammed has won thousands of races all over the globe and founded the Dubai World Cup in 1996.
However, myracing.com’s “Royal Racer” analysis only takes into account flat turf entries at British racecourses, an arena in which the Al Maktoum family has been no less successful.
As a youngster, the Sheikh used to ride bareback on Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach and he attended his first proper flat race in 1967 at Newmarket in England while studying at Cambridge University.
He tasted success as an owner for the first time a decade later and his racing empire has been growing ever since.
The Sheikh established Goldophin in 1992 and it’s fair to say that he’s dominated British flat racing ever since.
He’s personally been crowned Champion Owner nine times, while Godolphin has taken the title on 11 occasions and his son, Hamdan Al Maktoum, is a six-time winner.
As of December 15, Godolphin is again top of the standings and on course to collect yet another title thanks largely to the current star horse of the stables, Ribchester, who picked up two big wins at Newbury and Royal Ascot this year worth a combined $790,000.
There to witness Ribchester’s Ascot victory was the Queen, who has a longstanding interest in horse breeding and is said to read the Racing Post newspaper every morning over breakfast.
She’s had 18 winners from 85 races of her own in 2017, which places the Queen fourth in the “Royal Racers” ranking.
Ranked second is Saudi Arabia’s House of Saud, which weighs in with more than $2.8 million in prize money and the most impressive win ratio of the lot.
Prince Khalid Abdullah Al Saud is the owner of the prestigious Juddmonte Farms and has enjoyed phenomenal success with some of the best horses in history, most notably British thoroughbred, Frankel, who was unbeaten in his 14-year career and generated more than $4 million in winnings.
This year, the house of Al Saud entered a fraction of the races that Dubai did (240), but secured 53 victories – a 22.08% win ratio.
Qatar’s House of Thani entered nearly 200 more races (436) and won 68 of them but their winnings of nearly $2.5 million, while not to be sniffed at, put it in third.
Sheikh Fahad Al Thani is a keen amateur jockey and recently competed in a charity race at Ascot against former England international football player, Michael Owen.
The Queen is next on the list with just under $530,000 and the second best winning percentage of 21.18%.
It was revealed earlier this year that the 91-year-old monarch, who was British Champion Owner in 1954 and 1957, has won over $8.8 million in the past three decades, making her the 11th most successful flat racing owner in that period.
She has won all but one of the five British classic races – the Epsom Derby is the only one to elude her.
Meanwhile the Malaysian Sultanate of Pahang and Kuwait’s House of Sabah each racked up five wins in 2017.
Princess Haya, who first represented Jordan at showjumping at just 13 years old, entered far fewer races that her fellow royals (19), but still earned nearly $42,000 from her two victories.
The most successful non-royal owner is the syndicate of Derrick Smith, Mrs John Magnier and Michael Tabor, which accrued an impressive $9.4 million during 2017.
Horses registered solely to this group won 25 races out of 108 entries, which gives it a 23.1% win ratio – better than any of the royals.
Clearly owning a race horse can prove to be a good business investment but the myracing.com statistics also show that 1,452 out of 5,413 registered owners won no prize money at all this year.