Champion horse-breeder Khalid Al Nabooda won't let his animal allergies slow him down

The Emirati businessman copes with his condition as his horses make their mark at the races

By Leslie Wilson Jr.

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Published: Tue 17 May 2022, 9:11 PM

Last updated: Fri 20 May 2022, 8:01 PM

It's a sad irony that Khalid Juma Nabooda Al Suweidi, CEO of Al Nabooda Group, who has an unbridled passion for purebred Arabian horses, has a serious autoimmune disorder that prevents him from getting close to any animal.

During our conversation, I realise that Khalid, a champion breeder of racehorses, including the prized Arabian, is allergic to animal hair.

Any contact with a pet can trigger an allergic reaction that can cause him extreme discomfort. He was diagnosed with the syndrome in his youth and has fought a long battle to deal with his allergy.

“All my life I have been allergic to pets… birds, horses… all animals,” he tells me when we meet at his office on Sheikh Zayed Road.

“It is a strange condition which I have had to live with. I have visited many doctors, and specialists; I tried all kinds of treatments… even Chinese acupuncture and Japanese medication, but nothing works.”

The only advice he receives is to stay away from my horses. “I can’t do that so I have to find ways to cope with the condition and get on with my life.”

What sparked his passion?

As a schoolboy, he remembers visiting the Zabeel stables of the former Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, to admire the horses.

“I also often visited the former Prime Minister of the UAE Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum's stables in Al Aweer,” he says. “It was an amazing experience and got me thinking.”

His early interest soon became serious and he began racing Anglo-Arab horses in Sharjah. “I remember at that time Abu Dhabi horses would come and beat our horses very easily. This is when I realised that my horses were not good enough to compete against others from the UAE.

“I took to the sport seriously when my father took us to England. I started learning about thoroughbreds and decided to get into the racing and breeding business.”

Things changed when Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, former Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, noticed his passion and visited Khalid’s farm.

“He was to the point and told me that he will not support me in breeding thoroughbreds in the UAE.

“We will race them, but we will not breed them because the desert climate doesn’t suit the thoroughbred, and you also need a good environment,’’ was his advice.

Khalid took the recommendation seriously and turned his attention to purebred Arabian horses.

“Sheikh Hamdan gifted me my first Arabian horse called Aseeb, which the legendary Lester Piggott rode to victory in Jebel Ali in the early 90s,” he reminisces. This was when he was completely bowled over.

At that time, Khalid did not have the money to invest in horses and the sport, but he closely observed the Sheikhs of Dubai who were buying from some of the top stables and stud farms.

“I turned my focus to the pedigrees and bloodlines that they were investing in and bought similar horses when I had the money. I collected books on Arabians and learned in detail about bloodlines and important pedigrees.

“There was no technology in those days when you could simply click or push a button and find out everything you wanted to know. Instead, I spent time reading books on horses,” he explained.

Rising to the challenge

Khalid, who also runs the the Al Nabooda Group of Companies, a consortium of diverse businesses that he inherited from his father, Khalifa Al Nabooda, credits the success and growth of his racing and breeding operation to teamwork.

As the owner of the Nabooda Group, which deals in luxury cars, he has enough fuel to drive his passion for breeding and racing Arabians.

Khalid is comfortable wearing many hats, and switches from that of a corporate leader to horse-breeder with ease.

“My goal has always been to prove that locally bred horses can compete with the best horses, and I think I have proven that our horses can win races at all levels,” he says.

He has also never shied away from learning something new about the pedigrees and bloodlines of the animals that have always fascinated him.

“I’m still travelling and learning all the time and I am proud of what has been achieved so far.”

Khalid reached the pinnacle of his fame when Af Maher won the $1million Dubai Kahayla Classic, one of the world’s most prestigious Arabian races, in 2019.

Khalid compares his success in the corporate world and racing industry to the success of Dubai which has become a racing capital, thanks to the vision and passion of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“I don’t think there is any other leader in the world who has done so much for his country.  Sheikh Mohammed challenged the world. He not only challenged his people to excel, but he put Dubai on the world map and gave the Emirati people something to be so proud of.’’

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