Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH
Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH

Two renowned trainers, SA’s Mike de Kock and the UK’s William Haggas, have voiced the same opinion in stating that Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum “bettered the lives of many people” during his four decades in racing and bloodstock.

Sheikh Hamdan, deputy ruler of Dubai and minister of finance of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), died last Wednesday at the age of 75. He had been ill for several months and in 2020 flew abroad for unspecified surgery.

De Kock, who trained several big race winners for the Sheikh, said on his website that “Sheikh Hamdan not only employed, and still employs, thousands of people in what were his many and varied interests, but he touched all of our lives and will be sorely missed.

“The sheikh’s investments in racing and breeding over the past 15 years were of immeasurable value to us and changed the course of many lives, including my own. We are deeply saddened by his passing.

“From personal experience, the sheikh was a kind and approachable man. He had an extraordinary knowledge of racing and breeding and was a world leader in both industries for four decades.

“Our condolences to his family and to the people of Dubai where he was loved and revered for having time for everyone around him,” De Kock said.

Haggas, who has strong ties with SA, told Racing Post that Sheikh Hamdan was “a kind, loyal, generous, sporting man who enriched the lives of all who knew him and many who didn’t. The sport of horse racing has lost a true friend.

“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. Our lives changed when we met him in 2005 and they’ll change again now he has left us,” said Haggas.

Sheikh Hamdan launched his racing interests in the UK in 1981. Amazingly, just eight years later in 1989 he won the world’s most famous race, the Epsom Derby, with his three-year-old Nashwan.

He also won the 1994 Derby with Erhaab as well as two Melbourne Cups (At Talaq 1986 and Jeune 1994) and was champion flat owner in Britain nine times, the last in 2020. His other major successes came with Jazil in the 2006 Belmont Stakes in New York as well as two Dubai World Cups, Almutawakel in 1999 and Invasor in 2007.

The Sheikh purchased Shadwell Stud in Norfolk in 1984 and has a sister operation at Shadwell Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, in the US. Over the years, his Shadwell stable invested heavily in both racing and breeding and acquired major operations in the UK, Ireland and the US.

Sheikh Hamdan’s best horses with De Kock included Soft Falling Rain, Ertijaal, Soqrat, Majmu and Hawwaam, who joined Haggas’s stable in Newmarket earlier this year. He also owns this season’s top three-year-old, Malmoos, who will bid to win the Triple Crown at Turffontein next Saturday.

“Sadly, the Derby is a race Sheikh Hamdan won’t see,” said De Kock.

Saturday’s 25th running of the Dubai World Cup was won by the American horse Mystic Guide, who beat home 11 rivals for the first purse of $6,960,000.

Second home was the Japanese raider Chuwa Wizard with the French-trained Magny Cours, suggested in Business Day on Tuesday as the best long shot, running on into third place.

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