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Tuesday, 15 January, 2019

Phoenix Thoroughbreds make presence felt at OBS following Radcliffe split

Boss Amer Abdulaziz embracing change and planning for the future

Amer Abdulaziz with his $875,000 Scat Daddy filly on Tuesday
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Stepping forward while flanked by a team of international trainers and advisers, Phoenix Thoroughbreds founder Amer Abdulaziz quickly dispelled any questions about his recent parting with bloodstock agent Kerri Radcliffe to prevail for the top-priced individual during the opening session of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale.

After purchasing an $875,000 Scat Daddy filly from the immediate family of Derby winner Benny The Dip, Dubai-based Abdulaziz said Phoenix will become more involved in American sales and racing as it continues to amass top-quality equine assets worldwide.

“We love racing in America,” Abdulaziz said on a day in which he also made plans to eventually acquire horses to send to top American trainers Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen in addition to his mainstay conditioner, Bob Baffert, who developed Phoenix’s Grade 1 winner and Kentucky Oaks candidate Dream Tree.

“We have a proper organisation,” he declared in addressing media questions about Phoenix’s future.

“If anybody gets hit by a bus, it’s not going to change us and what we’re doing.”

Catalogue and results

While Phoenix is committed to American racing and also has a possible Kentucky Derby candidate in multiple UK winner Gronkowski, the Scat Daddy filly will be sent for Europe for training.

Consigned by Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds and bred by Hunter Valley Farm in Kentucky, the filly had been listed as a $335,000 RNA at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Newmarket-based trainer Jeremy Noseda worked closely with Baffert in scouting two-year-olds on the OBS grounds for Abdulaziz, with international bloodstock agent Dermot Farrington, Newmarket trainer Ed Vaughan and veterinarian Tom O’Keefe of Rossdales Equine Hospital also providing assessments. Tom Ludt, Phoenix’s American-based vice president of global operations, handled bidding on the Scat Daddy filly while receiving signals from Abdulaziz.

Phoenix also purchased an Uncle Mo filly out of stakes-placed Winiliscious, by Lawyer Ron, for $400,000 in the initial OBS session for a total spend of $1,275,000.

“Great buys. Thrilled,” Noseda said while patting the Scat Daddy filly, who had breezed a furlong in the co-fastest time of 9.4 seconds.

Baffert was also jubilant about the Uncle Mo filly - who will likely follow the same sire's Dream Tree in residing in his barn - while noting that she could have been pushed far higher in the bidding. She drilled a furlong in ten seconds.

Abdulaziz said his goal with Phoenix, which is structured to be the world’s only regulated thoroughbred investment fund, is to establish a brand name synonymous with elite horses around the globe.

“The trainers will be our bloodstock agents,” he said when asked about how business will continue following the departure of Radcliffe, who last year signed tickets for over $26 million worth of yearlings and two-year-olds in America, France and England.

“We’re adapting. Each of the trainers will come up with a list of prospects and we’ll decide from there.”

In Europe, Phoenix is working with Noseda, Sir Michael Stoute, Robert Cowell and Vaughan, as well as with Andre Fabre in France. Other European trainers will also be employed, Abdulaziz said, and Phoenix could also reach out to other prominent American conditioners.

While Radcliffe spent at least $1 million each on eight yearlings and two-year-olds during 2017, Phoenix will aim to seek value this year and while still pursuing only what team members identify as the premier lots at breeze-up and yearling sales. In 2017, during an initial venture into the American juvenile market, Radcliffe paid $1.7 million for the OBS March sale-topping Congrats filly later named Diamondsandpearls, who won for Baffert but now is residing with Noseda prior to an expected return to Baffert in May.

Looking at the total amount spent on the first day at this year’s OBS March sale, the Uncle Mo filly, who was recommended by both Baffert and Noseda from the consignment of Crupi’s New Castle Farm, and the Scat Daddy filly were reasonable in pricing considering their potential, Abdulaziz said.

“I thought the Uncle Mo filly was going to bring a lot more. We’re very happy with that price,” he said. “With this price on the Scat Daddy filly, we were also very happy and pleased.”

Abdulaziz added that he is making the most of the time he is spending in the US during his first personal foray to an OBS auction by explaining how the Phoenix investment fund is designed as he keeps an eye toward potential new investors.

“The future is bright. We are working hard in building the Phoenix brand to make it one of the leading brands not only in the US, but in Europe and in the southern hemisphere,” he said.

“Change isn’t something we are afraid of - it is required, really.”

'Outstanding potential'

Part of Phoenix’s strategy for the future consists of having a presence at all major sale venues, and Abdulaziz said he is encouraged by the way auction companies have welcomed purchases through the unique channel of the investment fund he created, after years of planning, which will be regulated in Luxembourg.

Both business entities and individuals have invested in the fund, and although they are not identified, they must go through a review and approval process by Phoenix’s investment committee, fund administrators and regulators.

Increasingly, Phoenix plans to focus more on stallion prospects and broodmares.

“We’ll be more involved on the breeding side than in racing,” Abdulaziz said. “But we’ll continue to buy racing prospects with outstanding potential to eventually become stallions or broodmares.”

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