‘I had big hopes for Zaaki’ – Aussie star’s first trainer Mohamed Moubarak quits Britain to return to US

Horse Racing Mohammed Moubarak trainer
Mohamed Moubarak: returing to work in the US after second spell as trainer in Britain. Photo: Mohamed Moubarak

By Jon Lees

GB: G1-winning trainer Mohamed Moubarak has quit as a trainer and is returning to the US frustrated at not being able to compete at the level he had hoped, despite starting his second spell in Newmarket with Zaaki in his stable.

Moubarak, 55, saddled his final runner at Newmarket’s July Festival to bring an end to a six-season stay and will fly to Saratoga this week with plans to continue working in the racing industry, though not as a trainer. “I really would have liked to have been able to compete at the highest level here,” he said.

“When I left here in 1992, I had a stable full of Group horses and there was no money made from prize-money. Then I come back 30 years later and it’s still the same money. I left everybody here arguing and trying to go on strike to raise prize-money and they are still at it today.”

Horse Racing Zaaki
Zaaki: the Aussie star started his career in Newmarket with Mohamed Moubarak. Photo: Racing and Sports

In his first spell with a licence Moubarak trained 53 winners in Britain and a hatful of big-race successes, including the Yorkshire Oaks with Magnificent Star, the Royal Lodge with Made Of Gold, the Park and Duke Of York Stakes with Green Line Express and the Mill Reef with Forest Wind. He was then in his 20s.

Moubarak’s hopes of experiencing similar success second time were undermined when Zaaki, now one of Australia’s top-rated horses, was moved on after one season having competed at up to G2 level. As a result there has not been a big win among his 33 winners.

“The progression was very slow and we never exceeded 12 or 13 horses in the stable and they were all bought very cheaply, with the exception of Zaaki and Poets Dream, who I bought in the first year and they turned out to be very nice horses,” he said.

“Neither stayed with me from two to three which hurt me a lot because they could have gone a long way. One went to Sir Michael Stoute and the other one went to Qatar. They were moved by the owners.

“I had big hopes for them turning three. I made a mistake. What I should have done was not run them until much later in their two-year-old season, but having so few horses you are inclined to attack a little early.”

Zaaki, who cost 40,000gns as a yearling, went on to land two G3 races for Stoute but has really flourished in Australia under Annabel Neasham, winning the G1 Doomben Cup and two G2s to establish himself among the country’s elite performers.

There have been others who have profited under Moubarak’s care. “We bought Royal Dynasty for 1,000gns and the other day she sold for 80,000gns after she won seven races and was placed seven times,” he said.

“Texting was bought for 14,000gns and she won five races and placed literally every time. It’s been hard. I bought Tailor Made for 9,000gns and we sold him for 150,000k to Hong Kong.

“Overall I can’t complain about the job done by me and my team, but I am not happy with the fact we didn’t get a big horse.”

Lebanese-born Moubarak has been involved in racing since his teens, learning his trade under John Oxx, Paddy Mullins and Vincent O’Brien. He left Britain in 1982 to pick up his career in the US with his main owner Mahmoud Fustok, first as trainer then racing manager until Fustok was killed when hit by a car while out jogging in 2006.

Second time around Moubarak has been indebted to Royal Dynasty’s owner David Fremel who “has been a super owner and the backbone of the whole stable”. But he was not so lucky with others who either failed to come up with the promised support or proved bad payers, which hurt him financially.

“Certain people told me to get a licence and they will give me support,” he said. “I got the licence and they weren’t there. I am old enough to know that without a big owner behind you it doesn’t work. 

“It’s left me not in a good financial position with some guys that really hurt me. It hurts much more with a small stable.” 

Moubarak has dispersed his string and will regroup in the US where he previously sourced horses for the likes of Nick Zito, Richard Dutrow, Patrick Byrne and Bill Mott.

“I always bought most of the nice horses that Rick had when I was there, winning all types of races at Breeders’ Cups, Dubai World Cups, and G1s all over America.” he said. “I hope to be recruiting horses over there. I also have a small market to get American horses for Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”

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