Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, prominent horse owner-breeder has died, at the age of 75

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and prominent horse owner and breeder, has died aged 75.

His blue-and-white colours, under the livery of his Shadwell Racing banner, are among the most famous throughout the racing world.

On Wednesday morning Sheikh Hamdan’s younger brother Sheikh Mohammed posted on Twitter: “We belong to God and to Him we shall return … May God have mercy on you, my brother, my support and my companion.”

Among the best of Sheikh Hamdan’s many Group One winners, he was most widely associated with 1989 Derby and 2000 Guineas winner Nashwan, the brilliant 1990 dual Classic-winning filly Salsabil and outstanding sprinters of different generations in Dayjur and Battaash.

Others to have carried his silks included Oaks and King George heroine Taghrooda, another Derby victor in Erhaab and two winners of the Melbourne Cup in the shape of At Talaq and Jeune, who triumphed at Flemington in 1986 and 1994 respectively.

Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation was among the first to pay tribute.

A tweet on the official account read: “Everyone at Godolphin is deeply saddened to hear of the death of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum. A great loss to Dubai and our sport. He was one of the greatest owner breeders of modern times. Our deepest condolences to His Family and all @ShadwellStud.”

Richard Hills was his retained rider from 1997 until his retirement in 2012 and continued to work for him under the Shadwell banner as assistant racing manager.

“It’s really sad. We’re all devastated. From 17 years old, throughout my whole career to now,” he said. “He was such a great man, he was like a father to me. We had some great times. I was in a lucky position. He was my friend, and I
was riding his horses, which was his passion. It was joy all the way through.

“Every one of the Classic winners I rode him meant everything to me – four Guineas, an Oaks and a Leger. All of them were special.

“Nayef was great because he was out of Height Of Fashion. He was tough and he won six Group Ones. There was Almutawakel who won the Dubai World Cup. I rode 550 winners in Dubai. I don’t think I took a week off for 15 years. It was a joy to get up in the morning and ride those horses.”

A man with a love for racing

Trainer Marcus Tregoning recalled a man with a great “love for racing”. Tregoning has known Sheikh Hamdan for long time, having first met him as assistant to Dick Hern – trainer of 1989 Derby winner Nashwan, in his famous blue-and-white silks.

“I’ve been associated with Sheikh Hamdan’s operation for over 40 years, and it’s been a great one for me,” said Tregoning. “Our association started in the early 1980s when Sheikh Hamdan bought Height Of Fashion from the Queen.

“That was the start of the horses coming to West Ilsley, which was where Dick Hern was training.”

Among those earliest arrivals were siblings Nashwan and multiple Group winner Unfuwain.

From those days of “tremendous excitement” right up until the Sussex Stakes-winning campaign of Mohaather just last season, Tregoning has treasured Sheikh Hamdan’s company as well as his brilliant horses.

“The early ones were Unfuwain and Nashwan – both out of Height Of Fashion,” he said. “It was a tremendous excitement getting those, and it snowballed from there.

“We’ve had a long happy association, because we’ve had so many good ones. Sheikh Hamdan’s enthusiasm for racing was such good fun. “Obviously, we’ll all miss him. It was just tremendous times we had, with all those good horses.”

Kevin Prendergast’s association with Sheikh Hamdan also stretches back to the late 1980s, with Tanwi giving them an early big-race winner in the Group Three Leopardstown Stakes in 1989.

Awtaad, the Irish 2,000 Guineas victor, and Madhmoon, runner-up in the Derby in 2019, were more recent class horses the County Kildare trainer had for him.

“It’s very sad news,” said Prendergast. “He was with me for more than 30 years. He was a great man, a great owner -and he will be sadly missed by all.

“I think I trained the last winner for him – Alhaazm on Friday night [at Dundalk]. “I won the Irish 2,000 Guineas for him with Awtaad in 2016 and I was second in the Derby for him two years ago [with Madhmoon].

“They were two highlights, but I had an awful lot of luck for him over the period of time he was with me, and I found him nothing but a gentleman and very loyal owner.”

Paul Hanagan was Sheikh Hamdan’s retained rider between 2012 and 2016, with 2014 Oaks winner Taghrooda and 2015 champion sprinter Muhaarar providing highlights of their association.

He said: “It’s a sad day for all – he was a gentleman. I don’t think people fully realised how busy he was in Dubai. He was a very, very busy man, but his knowledge and his love for the sport was amazing.

“Taghrooda was a special horse in 2014 and Muhaarar gave us some great days in 2015. There were a lot of great horses during our association. Sheikh Hamdan was champion owner in 2014 and I know he was delighted to be
back at the top that season.”

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