Robin Oakley

The turf: Man with a system

Robin Oakley surveys The Turf

It is not only the Arabs who have an intimate, almost mystical involvement with the horse. In Istanbul for the Topkapi Trophy, sitting beside the largest kebab I have ever seen (and, I kid you not, it was more than 12 feet long), I was reminded by my genial host Mehmet Kurt that the horse was special to the Ottomans, too. Their warriors, he insisted, were unbeatable. They never changed horses and their equine partners often saved their lives with their uncanny ability to anticipate and counter the enemy’s moves. There was perfect synchronisation of thought and movement between horse and warrior.

Mehmet Kurt’s own orange and white colours have twice been carried to victory in the Turkish Derby at Veliefendi and the prominent Istanbul owner, a construction and property millionaire, plans to have horses soon in Britain. Touring his stables some 50 minutes out of Turkey’s liveliest city there was plenty on which to feast the eye, notably nice two-year-olds by Montjeu, Rock of Gibraltar and Galileo. I particularly liked the look of South Center, by Royal Abjar. 
But Mr Kurt is not just bringing some of his equine stars to Britain. Provided he gets the final go-ahead from the Berkshire planning authorities, he will also be establishing at the former Kingwood Stud in the training centre of Lambourn an ingenious system he has pioneered that could revolutionise the preparation of horses for racing.

Talk to Mehmet Kurt and you cannot fail to be struck by his almost spiritual commitment to the horse. Like any successful businessman he likes winning, but he is not just interested in victory on the racecourse. He is also fascinated by what makes horses improve and he is determined to reduce the injury rates suffered when they are in training.

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