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Racing world loses one of its greatest patrons

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, a Dubai royal revered across the planet for his unwavering support of horseracing and passionate involvement in the promotion of Purebred Arabians through his Dubai International Arabian Races, passed away on Wednesday, leaving the industry in shock.

Sheikh Hamdan, owner of Shadwell Farm, one of the leading stud farms in the world and one of the most powerful personalities in horseracing, was also credited with putting Arabian racing on the world map.

He established his first racing stable, Shadwell Racing, in the UK in the 1980s and turned it into a racing empire.

He also enjoyed huge success on the racecourse, winning both the Epsom Derby and the Melbourne Cup twice. His two Derby successes came with Nashwan (1989) and Erhaab (1994) while his Melbourne Cup successes were with At Talaq (1986) and Jeune (1994).

Sheikh Hamdan’s vision to bring Arabian racing into the mainstream began over 30 years ago when he created the Dubai International Arabian Races, an end-of-season finale that began its life in Kempton Racecourse in the UK, before finding a new home at Newbury, its current headquarters.

Sheikh Hamdan, who won the Group 1 Dubai World Cup itself with Almutawakel in 1999 and Invasor in 2007, has selected runners on the nine-race card on Saturday.

His popular blue silks and white silks will be carried by five runners across three races in Saturday’s silver jubilee Dubai World Cup meeting. Al Rashid Al Rayhi runs Eqtiraan in the Dubai Turf and Al Zahir in the Dubai Kahayla, while Charles Hills sends out Khaadem and Dubai-based Doug Watson has Motafaawit in the Al Quoz Sprint, and Musabah Al Muhairi runs Zainhom in the Dubai Turf.

Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of Sheikh Hamdan’s Office for more than four decades, said: “I have had the absolute pleasure to have known and worked for Sheikh Hamdan for innumerable years and each one of those years was very special because he wanted us to strive to be the best.

“As we mourn a sudden and great loss together, I am reminded of many beautiful memories that I will always cherish.

“Today is a very sad day because we lost not only a considerate and kind person, but [also] someone who was well-known for his intelligence, innovation and farsightedness.”

Mohammad Saeed Al Shehhi, director of the office of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, expressed his heartfelt condolences to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and to Al Maktoum family, on the death of Sheikh Hamdan.

“We pray to Allah the Almighty to rest his soul in paradise and to grant patience and solace to his family. Sheikh Hamdan will always live with us through his rich legacy,” he said.

Rayhi, a three-time UAE champion trainer, who has a string of Sheikh Hamdan’s horses in training, added: “The racing world has lost one of the greatest patrons of the industry and we have lost one of our greatest supports to our industry.

“As an owner-breeder, he has contributed enormously towards the racing industry. He pioneered the promotion of flat racing for Purebred Arabians in the world.”

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 honour and a privilege to ride for him, my thoughts are with his family. Rest in peace (with a red heart icon).”

Richard Hills, the former retained jockey for Sheikh Hamdan and now the assistant racing manager to the Shadwell operation, told racingpost.com: “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.”

Champion trainer Satish Seemar termed Sheikh Hamdan’s passing as a blow to the horseracing industry.

“It’s a big loss for the industry. Personally I have trained nice horses for Sheikh Hamdan and he was one of the nicest owners in horseracing,” Seemar said.

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