Long road to glory as UAE horse owner eyes Carnival success
A man of humble beginnings is intent on working his way to the very top in the Sport of Kings.
Jimmy Long, a former Glasgow shipyard worker who has lived in the UAE for the past 30 years, is determined to make a big statement to the racing fraternity over the next few years.
The gregarious Scottish owner is going all-out to conquer the fast-approaching Dubai World Cup Carnival, starting this season with a raiding party of seven blue-blooded thoroughbreds.
It may sound a quixotic mission - you may never even have heard of him, but whether he succeeds or fails in 2013 it is just a drop in the ocean for this most ambitious of owners. It is a matter of the Carnival now, next stop the world.
"I just want to compete at the highest level," the 58-year-old businessman said. "I don't want to go the small tracks in Britain like Redcar and Ripon.
"I'd rather go to the Melbourne Cup and the Breeders' Cup. My aim is to bring up the quality of my horses in order to compete worldwide, which we are doing very rapidly, and to take on the best."
Long's raiding party will be spearheaded by My Special J's, an American-bred filly who he believes will act on the Tapeta surface at Meydan Racecourse.
The daughter of Harlan's Holiday, a multiple Group 1 winner in America, won the Group 2 Debutante Stakes in Ireland on her third start. She is being aimed at the UAE 1000 Guineas in February.
Like Mike de Kock, who not only acquired Treasure Beach and Daddy Long Legs from Aidan O'Brien, the Irish trainer, but also Await The Dawn and David Livingston for this season, Long has also swooped on the cast off Coolmore crumbs.
"My philosophy is that every now and again Coolmore let one slip through the net," he said. "You've only got to look at the success of Mike de Kock with Archipenko to see this is the case. I privately bought a horse from them called Chicago.
"I've been watching him for a long time, since he was a juvenile, and he is [much] better than his 100 rating.
"With the greatest respect to Coolmore they didn't run him in the right races - heavy ground and big weights in handicaps. We've given him a bit of tender loving care from our side and I think he'll win Group races for us this year.
"We've earmarked him for a 10-furlong race on the first night of the Carnival."
It is easy to get caught up in Long's infectious enthusiasm, and while natural cynicism makes you wonder whether he can achieve all of this, his rags-to-riches past suggests he is very much on the upwards curve.
Long was born in Whiteinch, a suburb of Glasgow, and worked as a young man in the shipyards on the River Clyde. They were tough times, and the adaptable Long felt he could do better.
"When the Chinese and the Koreans were taking all the work, I saw there was an opportunity in the Emirates, and I took it and it paid off for me big time," he said.
"I did a freelance job for six weeks in the Emirates, and then went home, established my own little company, and then bought it back out here again.
"I came here with my family and lived in Abu Dhabi for 22 years. I've now lived in Dubai for eight years and my two daughters also live in the Emirates. I run Regional Developments Consortium and we deal in infrastructure."
Long had some minor success in the early 1990s with a few National Hunt horses in Europe but it is his project in Kilkenny in Ireland that promises to propel his black, red and yellow silks - the colours of his beloved Partick Thistle Football Club, up the ranks at a significant rate.
Almost from scratch he has built up Thistle Farm, a training facility of some 127 acres.
He has a 10-furlong wood chip gallop, which he has called the Caledonia Mile.
It is embroidered with a three-and-a-half furlong training gallop and next summer comes the equine swimming pool.
Although it is a stretch to agree with his synopsis that it is "one of the greatest training facilities in Europe", there is no doubt the rolling hills of Ireland is a serene environment in which to rear thoroughbreds.
Long is not only nurturing equine talent, however.
His acquisition of the dual UAE champion jockey Tadhg O'Shea has been well documented and he has also installed Patrick Shanahan at Thistle Farm, a former jockey who in his first season as a trainer was fortunate enough to receive My Special J's.
Shanahan will be burdened with the responsibility of training two thirds of Long's horses, while the rest are dispersed to trainers such as Tracey Collins and Patrick Prendergast in Ireland and to Erwan Charpy in the UAE.
It is a huge responsibility for a rookie trainer, but Long is unconcerned. "Pat Shanahan was my jockey," he said.
"I have the greatest faith in this man to do what he has to do to get my horses across the line. His track record is a Group 2 in his first season.
"It is all to do with loyalty. I am a very loyal person, and I will support my people 100 per cent whether we win or lose, and they would do the same for me and it works.
"I do the same with my business. Most of my guys have been with me for 30 years."
If Long, O'Shea and Shanahan are still together in 2042 then surely the whole venture will have been worth it, regardless of what the triumvirate achieve.
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Published: November 21, 2012 04:00 AM