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Monday, 21 January, 2019

'I'm passionate about racing. Horses have never disappointed me, people have'

Mark Scully meets Phoenix Thoroughbreds CEO Amer Abdulaziz

Amer Abdulaziz: wants to position Phoenix Thoroughbreds among the global elite
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This article was originally published on September 1, 2018

Amer Abdulaziz is as softly spoken as they come but there is nothing quiet about the manner in which his Phoenix Thoroughbreds has burst on to the scene during the past 12 months. After a conversation with the man himself, the success is much easier to understand.

The CEO of Phoenix Fund Investments is relaxed, comfortable and confident, at home in our surroundings of London's Ritz hotel and well might he be in a good mood. Less than 24 hours earlier, the talented juvenile Advertise had carried his increasingly famous white and orange colours to glory, appropriately enough in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.

Abdulaziz is delighted to have secured Phoenix's first European Group 1 success but fortunately, Advertise's big day was more straightforward than his own. Having arrived in London, delays meant he was unable to make the short hop across to Ireland and instead of watching the race live in his hotel, he fell asleep and missed the whole thing.

"It was great news to wake up and know you've won a Group 1 race," he smiles. "It was our first in Europe and to be able to do that against a big trainer like Aidan O'Brien was very good. That's where we want to position ourselves. We're coming into this game and want to be a major player."

Abdulaziz was asleep while Advertise was doing his thing at the Curragh

For many, being anything other than wide awake while your horse contests a Group 1 is unimaginable but as Abdulaziz begins to describe his lifestyle, it is hard not to forgive him for momentarily dozing off. This is a man as driven as they come and sleep is one of the first things sacrificed.

"I get three to four hours of sleep a night," he explains, before being almost taken aback by any expression of surprise about the fact. Such is the nature, he explains in his matter-of-fact way, of managing funds of the size he does.

Phoenix Fund Investments, it is worth remembering, is about far more than thoroughbred racing, managing various investment funds around the world and Abdulaziz prides himself on his hands-on approach. In his world, it is always 9am somewhere.

"It's what I like to do with my clients and how I manage my investors," he explains. "We want to create a brand that operates globally. We want it to be a multi-national company. We like to say that the sun never sets on Phoenix, because we always have something going on somewhere, which is great."

Despite his varied financial interests, it is clear that the thoroughbred fund stirs something different inside the Bahrain-born, Dubai-based businessman. The glint in his eye is a dead giveaway and for all this is clearly a hardened and savvy operator, there is something about the romance of horse racing that affects him like nothing else.

While his thoroughbred investment fund comprises almost exclusively of what can be described as 'non-racing people', he is eager to educate them in the ways of the industry. This is not only about providing a return on the money risked at the start but also bringing new hearts and minds to our game, a responsibility Abdulaziz takes seriously.

"We are trying to target racing people but at the moment all of our investors are not racing people, and that's the beauty of it," he says. "We want to target racing people too though because we are giving them an opportunity, a return on their investment, and if they come on board they don't only own one horse but have a share in the whole portfolio.

"We hope to give them a different experience; we're not only focused on the racehorse, we have a lot of business worldwide and a lot of contacts for people looking for other business opportunities. We like our partners to open up doors for each other in places like the Middle East and New York. That's the whole idea behind the fund.

"What I'm trying to do for those people is educate them. I want to organise days for them to come to the races, visit some of the stud farms and create an awareness of the sport."

On why he harbours a desire to bring people to racing, he adds: "We manage other funds but the horse fund is very close to my heart. I spend a lot of money at the auctions, meeting nice people, and we've had a wonderful ride in the last year.

"This is my passion. It's purely passion, I'm very passionate about racing and about horses. I've always been involved with them, since I was nine years old. Horses have never disappointed me - other people have and more will in the future but horses have never disappointed me. I love this game."

Given Phoenix Thoroughbreds' success in 2018, it is easy to understand that love. Advertise is just one of a number of stars to strike for the group worldwide.

Gronkowski was second only to Justify in the Belmont Stakes after injury curtailed his own Triple Crown campaign, while Signora Cabello was a winner of Royal Ascot's Queen Mary Stakes before adding another Group 2 in the Darley Prix Robert Papin and finishing second in the Group 1 Prix Morny, of the same sponsor.

Gronkowski: appears to be a Grade 1 winner in waiting for Phoenix Thoroughbreds

"It makes me feel proud that the Phoenix name is shining and people have the right respect for us," says Abdulaziz. "Everyone wants to work for this organisation, which makes me very proud."

When pressed for a favourite moment so far, he cannot get away from a much less illustrious occasion, albeit one that confirmed his ambitious racing plans might just work.

"There have been so many beautiful moments already but the best was maybe the first filly to run for us in the US, called Diamondsandpearls," he recalls. "She cost us a lot of money, so to see her win first time was an amazing feeling."

And what of the future? That's easy.

"We are here to stay, no doubt about that," says Abdulaziz. "If this was a hobby, we would not be around for long. This is a serious business and we are taking it very seriously. We want to succeed."

We should consider ourselves warned.

Do not miss part two of our interview with Amer Abdulaziz, who details how Phoenix Thoroughbreds works and more on his ambitions for the future, online from Saturday evening and in Sunday's Racing Post

To win our first Group 1 in Europe against a trainer like Aidan O'Brien was very good. That's where we want to position ourselves
E.W. Terms
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