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Racing unites to mourn death of legendary owner-breeder Hamdan Al Maktoum

Hamdan Al Maktoum: bred and raced many great horses across four decades
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Racing was united in tribute following the death of Hamdan Al Maktoum, one of the most prominent and influential figures in international horseracing for more than four decades, at the age of 75.

The older brother of Sheikh Mohammed, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum helped to change the face of the sport in Britain and across the world through his investment in sponsorship, equine property and bloodstock, racing thousands of horses in his blue and white silks, including the likes of champions Nashwan, Salsabil, Dayjur and Battaash.

Sheikh Hamdan enjoyed considerable success with his runners, including two Derby wins with Nashwan (1989) and Erhaab (1994) and numerous other Classics such as the 2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Oaks, Irish Derby, Irish 2,000 Guineas, Irish 1,000 Guineas and Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, as well as a string of other Group 1s in Britain, Ireland and France.

He was champion Flat owner in Britain nine times (1990, 1994, 1995, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2014, 2019 and 2020).

His horses also triumphed in major international contests, landing the owner two Melbourne Cups with At Talaq (1986) and Jeune (1994), as well as a Breeders' Cup Classic with Invasor (2006), the Belmont Stakes with Jazil (2006) and the Dubai World Cup with Almutawakel (1999) and Invasor (2007).

Sheikh Hamdan: pictured with Battaash after his victory in the Nunthorpe Stakes in 2019

While Sheikh Hamdan, who served as deputy ruler of Dubai and UAE minister of finance and industry, was a powerful player at the sales spending millions of pounds each year, he was also a major breeder under the banner of his Shadwell Estates operation.

He purchased Shadwell Estate, near Thetford in Norfolk, in 1984, while sister operations are run at Derrinstown Stud near Maynooth, County Kildare and at Shadwell Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

Known for his loyalty to racing professionals, many of whom worked for him for decades, Sheikh Hamdan was a passionate supporter of Arabian racing alongside his love of racing thoroughbreds.

He was patron of the Arabian Racing Organisation and the key figure behind the establishment of the Dubai International Arabian Races, Europe's premier Arabian racing programme the finals day of which is held at Newbury racecourse each year.

An official statement from Shadwell on Wednesday read: "It is with great sadness that Shadwell announces the death of His Highness, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He died peacefully on Wednesday 24th March 2021.

"It is a time to reflect on his achievements and his enormous contribution to the global Thoroughbred and Arabian industries. His legacy will live on through his horses.

"Everyone at Shadwell is so proud to have worked for such a loyal, generous, humble and wise man."

Richard Hills, assistant racing manager to the Shadwell operation, said: "It’s very sad news. 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. I last spoke to him only a couple of weeks ago and he'll be sorely missed."

Sir Michael Stoute added: "Sheikh Hamdan had a great knowledge of and love for his horses. He made a significant contribution to British racing, and has left an admirable legacy. He will be greatly missed."

Taghrooda is led in by Sheikh Hamdan after winning the Oaks at Epsom in 2014

John Gosden, who trained 2014 Oaks winner Taghrooda, Sheikh Hamdan's last domestic Classic winner, said: "I've been fortunate to train for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum since the 1980s when I was in California. He's always been an absolute gentleman, with a true passion for his horses and a profound and intimate knowledge of them.

"He enjoyed being close to his horses whether on the stud farm, the racecourse or the stables. Sheikh Hamdan was a most respected, loyal, kind and humorous man of great depth and judgement. A huge contributor to the development of his country and a truly great international owner, breeder and philanthropist in the worldwide racing industry. He will be greatly missed."

William Haggas said: "The sport of horseracing has lost a true friend today. Sheikh Hamdan was a kind, loyal, generous, sporting man who enriched the lives of all who knew him and many who didn’t.

"He was a major presence in every facet of the racing industry, both on and off the track, and had a fantastic memory and huge passion for breeding as well as racing.

"Personally speaking, our lives changed when we met him in 2005 and they'll change again now he has left us. I'm very proud to have known him and will miss his support and enthusiasm dearly."

Charlie Hills, trainer of Battaash, tweeted: "From a phone call when we went into lockdown in January to check my family was okay, to taking James and Eddie [his sons] on to the podium after Battaash won his first Nunthorpe – [these are] just a couple of examples of the kindness of Sheikh Hamdan. Our sport has lost one of its finest."

Ed Dunlop also paid tribute, saying: "It's a sad day for world horseracing. Sheikh Hamdan first had horses with my father John such as the smart filly Salsabil and Derby winner Erhaab and he supported me through that connection as he was an incredibly loyal man to my family. He'll be sadly missed by the racing industry and also in Dubai where he was a great finance minister." 

The president of the UAE has declared a three-day mourning period which will mean all government departments and institutions are to close from Thursday until Saturday. Meydan is to host the prestigious Dubai World Cup night on Saturday evening.

Read more on Hamdan Al Maktoum

From Nashwan to Nayef: ten of the best to run in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan

From Height Of Fashion to Battaash: Tregoning, Johnston and Hills pay tribute

The remarkable facts and figures behind Sheikh Hamdan's achievements

From a small Redcar race to one of the world's great racing and breeding empires (Members' Club)

Sheikh Hamdan: shy, loyal, knowledgeable and a man fond of having a good laugh (Members' Club)

Did Nashwan produce the greatest gallop of all time? Remembering a Hamdan great (Members' Club)

A magnificent racing life: Sheikh Hamdan's champions down the years

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He made a significant contribution to British racing, and has left an admirable legacy. He will be greatly missed
E.W. Terms