Derby-winning trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam is facing the loss of more than 50 per cent of his string after the major global racing operation Phoenix Thoroughbreds announced it was pulling out of the UK.
Chapple-Hyam, winner of the Epsom Classic in 1992 and 2007, will see his stable numbers shrink from 13 to just five when Dubai-based Phoenix completes the removal of the 30 horses it has in training in Britain.
Among them will be Chapple-Hyam’s two main flag-bearers this year, Deja, winner of the Old Newton Cup last month, and Bharani Star, who finished fourth at Royal Ascot and sixth in the Oaks.
Last year Phoenix, which describes itself as “the world’s only horse racing investment fund”, and its founder and chief executive Amer Abdulaziz Salman were linked in court testimony in the United States with a fake cryptocurrency scheme, money from which it was alleged may have been invested in the racing operation. Abdulaziz has denied the allegations. On Tuesday the Racing Post published a list of questions it wanted answered.
Chapple-Hyam, 57, said: “I was told they were not happy with the way they have been treated by the Racing Post. Amer very kindly called me at the weekend that they were going to close down operations over here.”
He added: “For a small trainer like me it’s devastating. I’ve been through worse things. Bharani Star does run on Thursday so it doesn’t stop straight away.”
Chapple-Hyam, the son of a greengrocer, has been buffeted by numerous headwinds since he made a sensational start to his trainer career 29 years ago when he trained two Group 1 winners in his first season working for the late Robert Sangster from the lavish Manton estate in Wiltshire.
The following year he won both the 2,000 Guineas and Derby with Rodrigo de Triano, ridden by Lester Piggott, and Dr Devious.
At his peak he trained 100 horses but has operated on a much smaller scale in Newmarket since his return from a four-year stint in Hong Kong, yet still managed to win a second Derby with Authorized and land the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy in 2015.
Phoenix has spent big to establish a string of 300 horses worldwide, many in leading yards in the US and Australia. It’s best known horse in Britain, Advertise, was a three-time Group 1 winner. However his trainer Martyn Meade and Meade’s son-in-law Dermot Farrington, a bloodstock adviser, have since severed ties.
In its announcement Phoenix said it had “conducted itself appropriately, despite certain media outlets claiming otherwise. It is in no small part down to the unfair treatment from an industry media outlet that this decision has been taken”.
Abdulaziz said: “This has not been a decision we have taken lightly. However, for the growth and well being of our business and our partners internationally, we have taken the decision to leave the UK for the foreseeable future.
“It saddens me greatly to have to do this but at this juncture we believe it is necessary. We would like to thank everyone who has helped us achieve our dreams so far.”
Chapple-Hyam said: “Phoenix has been as good as gold with me. There has been some belt-tightening through Covid but I’ve never had a problem. They are big owners to be leaving the country.
“I will have only about five horses left. I will have to recover. I’ve had more slaps than Frank Bruno and been put down more times, but I’m a fighter and have been able to get up from the canvas every time. I will have to do it again.
“I only want to train another five or six years, then I can retire.”