Matt Chapman tribute to Frankel and Enable owner Khalid Abdullah with hilarious lost silks tale from Mauritius

SOMEWHERE in Mauritius are a pristine set of original Prince Khalid Abdullah silks. 

I know this, because once I was in charge of them. 

It says much about the legendary owner breeder – who sadly passed away this week – and the history of the famous green, white and pink colours that they disappeared. Well vanished from my clutches in the broadest sense of the meaning.

Frankel, Enable, Dancing Brave, Arrogate, Kingman and Oasis Dream were all owned by Abdullah. Some of the greatest names of some of the greatest horses that have ever graced the Sport of Kings. We can only thank Prince Khalid for every equine beast he allowed us to enjoy. 

But back to those colours. 

The names of those involved in this sorry tale have, in places, been removed to protect the innocent. 

Some years ago I agreed with the Mauritius Turf Club to organise European riders for its International Jockeys’ meeting. 

For many years it was a joyous gig – unpaid, but with a free fabulous trip to a glorious destination – and to be quite frank I did a rather good job. Thanks to me, Frankie Dettori visited the Island for the first time. For the local racing enthusiasts it was the stuff of dreams and he was treated like royalty. 

On one of my adventures I travelled there with the late and great Pat Eddery, and for the ceremony before racing it was asked if I could make sure the Irishman had Abdullah silks to wear. 

So I popped up to Warren Place, and Sir Henry Cecil was very helpful and said I could take a set they had as long as I brought them back. Without fail! That seemed an easy enough deal to me, although little did I know at the time.

Anyway, Pat wore his silks and all went well until we were on the bus to the hotel on the way back from the sport when I asked Pat to hand me over the colours so that I could keep them safe. 

“Oh hell Matt,” Pat said with a typically mischievous grin. “I left them in the weighing room.” 

At this stage I thought to myself not a bother, and telephoned the person who I knew could fetch them and send them over to where we were all staying. 

And it seemed I was right. A message came back that the silks would be looked after and brought to the hotel in the next forty eight hours. 

That happened which was fabulous news. But in life not everything is as it seems. 

When I got back to Newmarket I returned Sir Henry’s Abdullah silks to where they had come. 

“These aren’t our silks,” I was quickly told. “They haven’t got the right labels.” 

It turned out that Pat’s forgotten silks had been swiped by a ‘fan’ who wanted them for his personal racing museum. In the time between them being taken and returned to me, new near identical silks had been made by local traders. I had been given the fakes.

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Rest assured, when I delivered one or two sharp words across the world, I never booked jockeys for the Mauritius Turf Club again! 

The reason for this story is because it is an example of just how much regard we all have for Prince Khalid Abdullah. To the extent that someone went to such trouble to make sure they had his colours for themselves. 

Saudi Arabia has many issues, and rich men from the country are not always the most popular for very good reasons. 

That said, anyone who loves the Sport of Kings can only say thank you to Abdullah and his Juddmonte Farms for all the joy they have brought us since the late 1970s.

Arguably the greatest thoroughbred of all time, the unbeaten Cecil-trained Frankel, leads the way. But dual Arc winner Enable and Derby, Eclipse, King George and Arc super star Dancing Brace – not necessarily in that order – are both close up. 

And of the other stars I haven’t already mentioned, the list is endless. Some weren’t even stars, but just horses that were impossible to keep out of your mind. 

I’m talking Adonijah, Alphabatim, Bakharoff, Alphabatim, Armiger, Known Fact, Rainbow Quest, Warning, Quest for Fame, Saglamore, Commnader in Chief, Tenby, All at Sea, Workforce, Zafonic, Reams of Verse, Wince, Special Duty. Rail Link, Midday and Twice Over. 

All of you will have you favourite Abdullah horse. And that means all of you have been given memories of the turf that you will never forget. 

Speaking of which, I will never forget one of you has my silks! If you ever see them up for sale on Ebay and the posting destination is Mauritius give me a buzz!

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