Racing Mourns Passing of Sheikh Hamdan as World Cup Goes Ahead

Hamdan Al Maktoum

It is another sad time for worldwide horse racing and thoroughbred breeding in that as many weeks, a second icon of the sport has died as the racing world mourns the passing of.- His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

In other news from the world of horses, was the racing action was from Meydan in the UAE and the Group 1 Dubai World Cup. The British flat season has started once again with Haqeeeqy winning the first major handicap of the year, The Lincoln at Doncaster, for the new training duo of John and Thady Gosden.

In the world of sport horses, Hickstead announced that they would be unable to stage their famous international showjumping Derby meeting. It is the second year in a row that it has been cancelled due to the pandemic. The FEI suspended all European international competition until April 12th due to the recent outbreak of Equine Herpes (EVA 1) which took hold in Spain at the Sunshine tour at the beginning of the month. If it’s not human viruses which halt horse sport at present, the horses show they are just as capable themselves to stop proceedings! Finally, the Equestrian Centre at Wellington in Florida, which celebrates in 10th year this year, is to have a major make-over with new stabling facilities as well as new surfaces for competition.

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum

Like Khalid Abdullah, Sheikh Hamdan was known particularly for his knowledge about racing and breeding thoroughbreds as well as his gentlemanly approach to the whole industry. He bred hundreds, if not thousands of horses himself over forty years, as well as buying a huge number of yearlings at the sales each year, thus keeping the wheels of the bloodstock industry well oiled, and giving many smaller breeders the dream of a decent return for a yearling.

Sheikh Hamdan owed the Shadwell Stud near Thetford in Norfolk and where he stood stallions of the highest calibre including his Derby winning stallion, Nashwan. He won several classics around the world, some on many occasions. As well as his UK base at Shadwell, he also owned Derrinstown Stud, County Meath in Ireland, where he also stood other prolific stallions. The final stallion station he had was in the USA at the Shadwell Farm in Lexington in Kentucky. He was not only known as an extremely kind man, but a man of extraordinary loyalty to those who were in his employ and his bloodstock advisors and trainers. He was also a very keen supporter of pure bred Arab racing throughout the world together with his bloodstock interests.

Hamdan’s Father. Hamdan al Rashid

Born in 1945, Sheikh Hamdan was the second son of Sheikh Rashid, ruler of Dubai from 1958 to 1990. He had two brothers, Maktoum Al Maktoum was the elder and his younger brother is the Godolphin supremo Sheikh Mohammed and is of course the current UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai.  In business and politics, Sheikh Hamdan was the finance minister and deputy prime minister of the U.A.E. In 1971, there were seven emirates who came together and formed the UAE. With their new found wealth in the discovery of oil, they soon became some of the richest men in the world. In the 1960’s, Sheikh Hamden attended a school in Cambridge, where her learned to speak English. Being so near Newmarket, he had the pleasure of attending all the Newmarket races as well as being able to visit studs and training establishments to further his interest and knowledge about thoroughbreds. It was not long after his brother, Sheikh Mohammed started to buy yearlings at Newmarket that Hamden followed suit. His first purchase in the yearling market was in 1979, for Ghadeer, a colt brought by trainer Tom Jones, and who broke the record amount paid for a yearling in Europe at auction by more than double at 650,000 guineas. Tom Jones recounted how when he met Sheikh Rashid, the then ruler of Dubai told him that he wanted each of his sons to have studs and facilities in Newmarket for at least 100 brood mares each!! Tom wondered what he had put into Rashid’s coffee!!!

Derrinstown Stud. The Sheikh’s first stud purchase in Europe

The first stud, Hamden purchased was in Ireland, The Derrinstown Stud, followed the following year by Shadwell Stud in Norfolk and another in Kentucky under the same name. Money was no object, and it was not long before the blue blooded mares in the world were being purchased including Height of Fashion from The Queen. Height of Fashion bred some wonderful horses for The Sheikh, The 2000 Guineas and Derby double winner NashwanUnfurwain and Nayeef, all of whom were retired to his Norfolk establishment. The Sheikh soon employed a bloodstock manager, Angus Gold, with whom he spoke most days. He had a most successful relationship with Major Dick Hern, who trained Nashwan, the prolific sprinter Dayjur and Alhaarth together with many other horses.

Willie Carson winning on Nashwan – Sheikh Hamdan’s first Derby winner

Another trainer, who was blessed with the products from the Shadwell studs was John Dunlop, who trained another Derby winner for the Sheikh, Erhaab. Dunlop also trained Salsabil, the wonder filly who won further classics and Group 1 races. The list of great horses in history owned and bred by The Sheikh was and is incredible and a list which is far too long to make here. Sheikh Hamdan also had so many notable successes all over the world including a Melbourne Cup winner At Talak. Other wins across the globe included Invasor, a triple crown winner and champion horse of the year in the USA.

Hamdan loved his racing

It would be quite possible to go on and n and on about the man who had huge sums of money and a complete love for horse breeding and racing. He currently has left 200 horses in training in the UK alone. He was known to be able to identify all his horses, whether in a field on one of his studs, or whether in training. He loved the sport as a sport and was always equally joyous when a smaller less wealthy person beat him in a big race. He was known to generous to a fault and his loyalty to his trainers, jockeys and other staff was recognised throughout his bloodstock empire. He will be greatly missed by all in the stud and racing world. His legacy will surely be

Many have already made their comments on this man including John Gosden, Angus Gold, Willie Carson, the Sheikh’s first retained jockey, Richard Hills, also retained by the Sheikh and who later became his racing manager and Roger Charlton, another of the Sheikhs successful trainers. There is no doubt that Sheikh Hamdan will be missed by so many and his legacy surely is how he and his brothers have changed the face of racing throughout the world and particularly in the UK.

The Dubai World Cup Meeting

Winner of the 2021 Dubai World Cup for Godolphin – Mystic Guide

This is one of the most prestigious meetings in the world racing calendar and the most important to be held in the Middle East. The main race is of course the Dubai World Cup, but there are a plethora of Group races on the same card for horses around the world to compete and earn mega bucks if they win or are even placed. It has to be said that this was rather a subdued World Cup meeting with all flags flying at half-mast on account of the recent death of Sheikh Hamdan. However, one new piece of news was that top British trainer John Gosden announced that he would now train horses in association with his son Thady. They had a fruitful first day as joint trainers. They won the Lincoln Handicap in Doncaster with Haqeeeqy, owned by Sheikh Hamdan’s daughter Ms Hissa Hamdan Al Maktoum which was a very poignant victory under the circumstances and was a first major win for rooky jockey Benoit De La Sayette, a John Gosden protégé. John and Thady Gosden also won two of the top races in Dubai. The first was Lord North, who won the Dubai Turf DP World Stakes, another Group 1 for the sensational sire Dubawi whose record of individual stakes winners now stands at 199. The second Dubai Gosden success came with the Sheema Classic with Mishriff taking the line first with jockey John Egan on board. The UAE Derby was won by Rebel Romance, also trained in the UK for Godolphin by Charlie Appleby. The two major races run on dirt were understandably won by USA trainers. The first, the Dubai Golden Shaheen was won by an outsider, Zenden trained by Carlos David and the Dubai World Cup itself was taken by Mystic Guide, who was sent off favourite for trainer Michael Stidham. There were 12 runners in the $5,250,000 prize money for the winner with representatives from all the major racing countries of the world The winner was owned and bred by Godolphin and was ridden by Luis Saez.

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