12/10/2002 12:00AM

Sheikh Mohammed speaks out

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Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum on Tuesday stated his dissatisfaction with the level of purse money in Britain and issued a warning to the British racing industry. The statement by Sheikh Mohammed, head of the Maktoum family's Godolphin racing operation, was read by Michael Osborne, a steward for the Emirates Racing Association, at the annual Gimcrack dinner in York, England. Sheikh Mohammed was not at the dinner.

The speech recalled the threat in Sheikh Mohammed's 1997 Gimcrack speech to pull the Maktoums out of British racing if purses were not increased. While in Tuesday's speech he acknowledged progress made since then, he warned that the Maktoum family "stands willing to join with other owners in taking action" if prize money does not show further improvement.

"Let nobody doubt it," he said. "Prize money is the lifeblood of the industry. The more it increases, the better it is for everyone, not just the owners."

British racecourses came under particular fire in the speech.

"The posturing of some racecourses leads me to think that they feel they can run the sport and can operate in isolation from owners and others," he said. "Take it from me, that is not the case."

Sheikh Mohammed also expressed concern about the plight of stable help in Britain. He said that he was "hugely disappointed that hardly anyone . . . has sought to make stable staff a priority."