Al Shaqab say sorry as they admit to causing major racing debts problem
An apologetic Al Shaqab have thanked trainers for their "considerable patience and understanding" as Sheikh Joaan's racing operation vowed that those who for months have been chasing unpaid bills will finally have accounts settled.
Several of Britain's leading trainers have been forced to run their businesses without the many thousands of pounds owed to them by Al Shaqab, who in recent years have become a major force at the highest level of international Flat racing.
Al Shaqab general manager Khalifa Al Attiya has claimed the problems are linked to a financial review and reorganisation.
However, a number of those on the organisation's payroll believe budgets were last year exhausted prematurely due to expensive transactions, such as the half-share bought in subsequent dual Classic winner Brametot four days before his success in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains.
Attempting to estimate the scale of the Al Shaqab debts is difficult, but with numerous yards thought to be missing at least tens of thousands of pounds, the scale of the overall shortfall is likely to run well into seven figures.
On Monday evening all those awaiting money from Al Shaqab – which extends beyond trainers to other service providers – received a letter, part of which stated: "We are very sorry that you have been experiencing such delays in payment of Al Shaqab invoices.
"We are in the process of correcting an issue that has created this backlog and hope to have monies in your account shortly.
"In the hope of speeding up the process we are reorganising our European accounts department and from January 1 onwards we will be centralising all the invoices to the French office at the Haras de Bouquetot for their approval before being processed at the Doha finance office in Qatar."
The letter concluded: "We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your considerable patience and understanding. Please rest assured that all monies due will be paid."
No trainer contacted by the Racing Post has been prepared to have his name attributed to a quote.
However, one of the affected licence holders said: "This has been a very difficult situation which we hope will be resolved soon.
"The majority of trainers pay suppliers within 30 to 45 days. A big debt, such as those we have been experiencing, therefore affects your cashflow very badly."
In a statement sent to the Racing Post, Al Attiya said: "Al Shaqab is operating like every other business with accountability and responsibility. Our responsibility is to finalise our yearly financial review and settle any invoices owed fully.
"We have noticed in our financial review that some payments may have been delayed, and answering that question as to why it has been slightly delayed is a question in our financial review."
With increasing emphasis being given to France by Al Shaqab, the racing operation fronted by the Emir of Qatar's brother Sheikh Joaan are expected this year to have only 11 two-year-olds in training in Britain, where they have retained Frankie Dettori as their principal jockey.
As well as winning some of the sport's biggest races – including two Qatar-sponsored Arcs with Treve and the 2,000 Guineas courtesy of Galileo Gold – Al Shaqab have also entered into racing sponsorship, backing the Lockinge Stakes card at Newbury.
In a statement the racecourse said: "Al Shaqab are valued sponsors at Newbury racecourse and we are grateful to them for their ongoing support and commitment.
"This year will mark the fourth of a five-year sponsorship deal of the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes, and we have always worked closely together in order to deliver the very best return on their investment.
"All of our commercial dealings have been satisfactory to us and we look forward to working with them for the next two years of the current contract."
Asked for the BHA's position, head of media Robin Mounsey said: "While we would not comment on speculation surrounding individual cases, more generally the rules allow for the BHA to mediate on any dispute over unpaid training fees when a complaint is raised to the BHA and where a training agreement exists between the owner and trainer."
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