By Jon Lees
Australia: The new owner of Sir Dragonet, Ozzie Kheir, has revealed he had been trying to buy the colt for over a year – and insisted he paid nothing like the reported A$3 million (£1.6m) to get him.
Melbourne property developer Kheir said the sum touted to acquire the Ballydoyle colt for the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable was “40 to 45 per cent” off the true amount.
Kheir has enjoyed both Melbourne Cup and Everest success through owning stakes in Protectionist and Yes Yes Yes, and was a part-owner of Marmelo in the final two seasons of his career.
Sir Dragonet, who will be aimed at the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup, was his first ‘big ticket’ buy for a while.
“If anyone offers me A$3m for him today he’s sold,” said Kheir, speaking to the RSN Racing Pulse Podcast. “It wasn’t anywhere near that, probably 40 to 45 per cent over-inflated.”
Sir Dragonet started favourite for last year’s Derby after bursting onto the Classic scene with an eight lengths win in the Chester Vase. He finished fifth at Epsom, beaten less than a length, but has not added to his win tally.
Kheir revealed he bid for Sir Dragonet after having “a few cocktails” while he was watching an Aussie Rules football match on TV.
“I’ve been trying to buy Sir Dragonet for over a year,” he said. “We’d looked at probably 50 horses and knocked back most of them in the hope we would eventually get this bloke.
“I made the call to Tom Magnier and surprisingly enough spoke to MV, Tom’s brother. We got in a conference call and we struck a deal. It was an expensive few drinks.”
He continued: “I tried to buy him after his very first start. It was probably wishful thinking. I kept pestering and pestering until eventually I think I wore them down.”
Sir Dragonet finished fourth in the St Leger last year but has been campaigned over 1m2f this season, finishing second on all four starts.
Kheir said: “We originally were looking at him for the Melbourne Cup. We just think that all his runs are screaming out that he needs further. I don’t know whether the Melbourne Cup will be his right distance or not.
“Aidan has kept him at the 2,000m mark, trying to make a Group 1 out of him. He’s come very close.
“I think he is going to be a genuine Cox Plate horse – that would be our goal. Then we will go into the Melbourne Cup with him and find out where we are at.
“He is the first big ticket in a couple of years. The clock was ticking because we have only got two or three weeks to buy any horse out of Europe to get into quarantine.”
Kheir added that French-trained Plumatic, another European horse with whom he is involved, would probably travel to Australia with Sir Dragonet. Plumatic ran in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, finishing 14th of 15 for trainer Francos Graffard.