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Dubai deputy ruler, horse racing figure Sheikh Hamdan dies

DUBAI: In this file photo taken on March 29, 2003, Italian jockey Frankie Dettori (center) celebrates victory at the Dubai World Cup, with UAE Minister of Defense and Crown Prince of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (right) and Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (left). – AFP

LONDON: Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Dubai’s deputy ruler and one of the most influential figures in horse racing over the past four decades, has died at the age of 75, his brother Sheikh Mohammed announced on Twitter yesterday. Sheikh Hamdan had also been the UAE’s finance minister since 1971.

Sheikh Hamdan enjoyed huge success on the racecourse, winning both the Epsom Derby and the Melbourne Cup twice. His blue-and-white colors were most recently carried to glory by champion sprinter Battaash last year. Charlie Hills trainer of Battaash paid tribute not only to his success as a breeder and owner but his human side too.

“From a phone call when we went into lockdown in January to check my family was OK, to taking James and Eddie onto the podium after Battaash won his first Nunthorpe,” tweeted Hills. “Just a couple of examples of the kindness of Sheikh Hamdan. Our sport has lost one of its finest.”

The Sheikh’s first choice jockey Jim Crowley said he would always be in his heart for giving him the chance to ride top class horses. “So very sad of the passing of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. You would not meet a more honest and loyal man,” tweeted Crowley. “I will be forever grateful to him, it’s been an honor and a privilege to ride for him, my thoughts are with his family. Rest in peace (with a red heart icon).”

The older brother of Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, he was champion flat owner in Britain nine times. Aside from spending liberally at the horse sales each year he was also a successful breeder and generous sponsor of races. Sheikh Hamdan also owned three stud farms, in England, Ireland and in the hotbed of thoroughbred breeding in the United States, Kentucky.

His two Derby successes came with Nashwan (1989) and Erhaab (1994) while his Melbourne Cup successes were with At Talaq (1986) and Jeune (1994). Richard Hills rode many winners for Sheikh Hamdan before assuming the role of assistant racing manager at his Shadwell operation. “It’s very sad news,” he said in comments carried in the Racing Post. “It’s like losing a boss and a father as I’ve known Sheikh Hamdan my whole life. “He was such a good man and we were very close. I know he was very frustrated about not being able to come to Royal Ascot last year when we had six winners as he loved Ascot. He’ll be sorely missed.”

Sheikh Hamdan was patron of the Arabian Racing Organization and the motivating force behind the establishment of the Dubai International Arabian Races, Europe’s premier Arabian racing program which has its finals day at Newbury racecourse each year. His death follows that of Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in January, who was also a towering figure in the racing world. – AFP


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