They are just a couple of sheiks staying at home to protect their fiefdom on the Persian Gulf.
But this weekend their horses are running at Laurel.
The battling brothers from Dubai finally are making their debut in the Budweiser International.
But they won't be here to see it. In a race where the usual roster of owners could include a queen, a few lords and one or two shipping magnates, an emir can now be added.
Sheik Mohammed, the youngest of the two brothers, is represented by Creator, the early-line favorite in the nine-horse lineup.
His older brother, Sheik Maktoum, is running Batshoof, the second choice, that he owns in partnership with Arab businessman Mutter Salem.
"Their horses might be battling in the stretch, but I don't think there is any kind of rivalry between the brothers," said Tim Capps, the racing executive who annually travels to European tracks soliciting International nominations. "They are strictly in it for the sport. There are actually four brothers, and between them, they have something like 1,000 horses in training. Every once in a while a couple of them are bound to end up in the same race."
According to Capps, Sheik Maktoum has just taken over as the ruler of Dubai. "Their father died a couple of weeks ago, and, of course, with all the trouble in the Middle East, they are staying at home running the country," Capps said. "The younger brother, Sheik Mohammed, is the country's minister of defense."
Dubai is a tiny -- but apparently oil-drenched -- country, located on the opposite end of the Persian Gulf from Kuwait.
The Dubai brothers have been the major players in the international bloodstock markets for about a decade and although their reported absence from the Saratoga sales this summer caused the average to dip precipitously, they still reportedly spent $5 million or $6 million, considered economy shopping for them. They are credited with just about singlehandedly saving English racing by pumping up the horse markets, buying farms, standing stallions and sponsoring races.
In fact, this weekend they are putting on their own $750,000 international race at Goodwood Park in England called the Dubai Champion Stakes.
Their Laurel representatives, although listed as the favorites, are just from their B-strings.
Neil Drysdale, the Englishman-cum-Californian, who trains Batshoof, has been training for Sheik Maktoum for about five years. But he said he has only met him once, at the Kentucky summer yearling auctions. He was once invited to spend a week visiting them in Dubai, but sent his wife, Ingar, instead. "Of course, it was fabulous," she said. "But you would expect that if you were the guest of the country's rulers."
Drysdale said everything connected with Maktoum's horses "is handled by his racing manager, Joe Mercer, who is a former champion jockey in England." Mercer will be at Laurel on Sunday. Sheik Mohammed will be represented by his French trainer, Andre Fabre.
Creator was considered one of Europe's best horses last spring, when he won five straight races, including two Grade I stakes. He disappointed when shipped to England this summer, but his prep for the International looks particularly strong. He was beaten by only 2 1/4 lengths by Saumarez, who subsequently won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and is a favorite for the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Drysdale said Batshoof doesn't have as good a record. "He was shipped to me about a month ago to eventually race in California," Drysdale said. "He is a horse that doesn't require much training. He comes from off the pace, and makes one big run. So he will benefit if a fast pace develops between such speed horses as Swing Til Dawn, who has real early speed, and Double Booked."
The Turf Festival, conceived two years ago, is run over two days and comprises five races. Purses for the five races total $1.9 million.
The Turf Festival appears to be picking up local support. Of the 49 entrants, 16 horses are from France and England, all of which came over on one chartered flight, except Creator, who came over separately. There are 10 Maryland-based horses in the five races and one of them, Ten Keys, is one of the International favorites.