Sheikh Fahad al-Thani, the principal sponsor of this week’s Qatar Goodwood Festival, has deleted a tweet which appeared to suggest that Aidan O’Brien’s colt Vatican City was “not right” before the Group One Sussex Stakes at the track on Wednesday. Vatican City dropped away quickly from two out and finished lame, while Kameko, Sheikh Fahad’s runner in the race, finished fourth behind Mohaather after being repeatedly denied a run in the closing stages.
William Buick, Vatican City’s jockey, reported to the stewards after the race that his mount had been struck into during the race and had also lost a shoe. The colt was also found to have an irregular heartbeat during a post-race veterinary examination.
Sheikh Fahad, whose Twitter bio is headed by a picture of the Qatari royal wearing his claret racing silks, then tweeted on Thursday morning: “Thankfully our horse is in one condition and fit and healthy to fight another day. Tough game. Sorry for Vatican City to go wrong in the race. Last thing anyone wants is to run a horse that’s not right in a G1 race. We would never do that or hopefully anyone in this position”. The tweet was then deleted about four hours later.
“His wording was not correct and it was basically misconstrued and misunderstood and he certainly didn’t want to insinuate that the horse had been run lame,” Johno Spence, a spokesperson for the Sheikh, said on Thursday. “He’s obviously realised that he needs to be a bit more careful, but that certainly wasn’t his intention and the reason that he’s taken it down is that people have misinterpreted what he meant.”
The British Horseracing Authority declined to comment on Sheikh Fahad’s tweet, but confirmed that there had been no concerns about Vatican City’s soundness before the Sussex Stakes and that he had finished lame as a result of being struck into.
Thursday’s tweet was not the first time that Sheikh Fahad has used social media to make what appear to be veiled criticisms of O’Brien’s Ballydoyle operation. After the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, in which O’Brien saddled three of the seven runners, he tweeted: “There’s no place for team tactics in racing such a shame to watch the St James run like that”.
O’Brien has vigorously denied ever using team tactics in races, telling the Guardian earlier this month that it was something his stable would “never ever” do.