Horse racing

Trainers pay tribute to Sheikh Hamdan at Dubai World Cup

James Jose/Dubai
Filed on March 25, 2021
Sheikh Hamdan left an indelible mark in the hearts of horses, trainers, jockeys, work riders and each and everyone associated with the equine sport. (Shadwell Stud Twitter)

The $26.5 million Dubai World Cup will play out amidst the backdrop of the passing of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance

When the horses take to the bottle-green starting gates for each of the nine races on the card on Dubai World Cup night, the biggest night of horse racing, it will be a sombre atmosphere at the Meydan Racecourse.

The $26.5 million Dubai World Cup will play out amidst the backdrop of the passing of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance.

A pioneer in the world of horse racing and breeding, Sheikh Hamdan left an indelible mark in the hearts of horses, trainers, jockeys, work riders, grooms and each and every one associated with the equine sport.

Sheikh Hamdan touched every one of them in some many different ways, so much so that the entire horse racing fraternity at Meydan and the world over, were yet to come to terms to the fact that he is not in our midst.

But he will be in our midst, watching over us, as the races get going on Saturday, and knowing the man, he would have liked to have the racing to go on. And the racing fraternity will go about the business with more than a tinge of sadness and a prayer on their lips.

In Satish Seemar, six-time UAE Champion Trainer’s words: “He is irreplaceable.”

“If you knew him a bit personally, he’s a very special person, very personable person. He knew each and every one of his horses, he named his horses. You cannot replace a person like him. The World Cup, we will run, but it is a very sober kind of an atmosphere,” Seemar, who has been in Dubai for three decades, and trained some of Sheikh Hamdan’s horses in the past, said during the traditional ‘Breakfast with the Stars,’ at the Meydan Racecourse, on Thursday morning.

Sheikh Hamdan, who won 112 races to be crowned British Champion Owner last year after victories in 1990, 1994, 1995, 2002, 2005 and 2014, has five runners across three races on the nine-race card on the night with Al Zahir in the $750,000 Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic, the lone race on the card for Purebred Arabians, the pair of Khaadem and Motafaawit in the $1 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint, and Eqtiraan in the $4 million Group 1 Dubai Turf. All five will be running under the banner Shadwell, Sheikh Hamdan’s racing operation.

It will be a poignant moment on Saturday, for Godolphin trainer Emirati Saeed bin Suroor, who won the first of his record nine Dubai World Cups with Almutawakel, the horse owned by Sheikh Hamdan, in 1999.

Bin Suroor was thankful for the support from Sheikh Hamdan, in the early days of his career as a local trainer.

“He supported me early on and did a lot for me as a local Emirati trainer, this is a sad day and a huge loss not only for the UAE but for the entire region,” bin Suroor said.

“He had his operations all over the world in Australia, Europe, America, South Africa and he had some of the best stallions worldwide. You have a winner at Royal Ascot and it’s good, but he had six last year and it was brilliant!” added the 54-year-old stalwart.

Trainer Charlie Hills, who saddles Khaadem in the Al Quoz Sprint on the night, revealed the other side of Sheikh Hamdan.

“When we went into lockdown in January (in the UK), he gave me a phone call just to check if my family was ok,” revealed Hills.

“We will always remember him taking my sons James and Eddie onto the podium after Battaash won his first Nunthorpe, two perfect examples of the kindness of Sheikh Hamdan. Our sport has lost one of its finest,” added Hills, who trained Sheikh Hamdan’s brilliant star Battaash to victory in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot last year and a hat-trick of Group 2 King George Stakes from 2018 to 2020, at Glorious Goodwood.

Richard Hills, who was the jockey when Almutawakel won in 1999, and who is now the assistant racing manager at Shadwell said that Sheikh Hamdan’s passing was like losing a father.

“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,” said Hills.

“I know he was very frustrated about not being able to go 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,” he added.

Multiple UAE Champion Owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda too echoed Hills.

“Sheikh Hamdan was like a father, teacher and guide for me in all matters of life and not only with regard to horses. I gained a lot of knowledge from him on many things religious, commercial, cultural and on sport as well as in equestrian,” said Al Nabooda.

Mohammed Essa Al Adhab, general manager of Dubai Racing Club and Dubai Equestrian Club said that Sheikh Hamdan’s contribution to the world of racing, breeding and also the growth of the Purebred Arabians, was immense.

“His Highness Sheikh Hamdan has accomplished a lot of great things around the world and in many different types of equestrian sports,” said Al Adhab.

“His contribution to the world of breeding and his position as one of the top Purebred Arabian personalities as well as his huge successes with Shadwell in the UK, Ireland, and the United States speak volumes about his dedication and love for horses,” he added.

Meanwhile, Jebel Ali Racecourse manager, Shareef Al Halawani, said: “I offer my deepest condolences to the family of Sheikh Hamdan for their great loss. We have lost one of the dearest and honourable men and one who had great wisdom and was always a good example to everyone. May God have mercy on his soul!”

Ten-time British Champion Trainer Sir Michael Stoute spoke about Sheikh Hamdan’s deep knowledge of horses.

“Sheikh Hamdan had a great knowledge of and love for his horses. He made a significant contribution to British racing, and has left an admiral legacy. He will be greatly missed,” said Sir Stoute.


>> Al Zahir in the $750,000 Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic

>> Khaadem and Motafaawit in the $1 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint

>> Eqtiraan and Zainhom in the $4 million Group 1 Dubai Turf

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