Brilliant Battaash was the latest sprint king for Sheikh Hamdan

It is quite fitting the first and latest of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s champion owner titles are most remembered for a sprinter.

Dayjur was the horse that lit up the 1990 campaign with five consecutive victories in the Temple Stakes, King’s Stand, Nunthorpe, Haydock Sprint Cup and Prix de l’Abbaye, before his agonising defeat in the Breeders’ Cup.

Last season it was Battaash, who finally added a Royal Ascot triumph in the King’s Stand on the way to winning the King George Stakes at Goodwood for a fourth time and claiming back-to-back victories in the Nunthorpe at York.

Battaash was one of six winners in the familiar blue and white colours at Royal Ascot, which was held behind closed doors due to the pandemic.

Battaash and Jim Crowley return in triumph after the King’s Stand Stakes
Battaash and Jim Crowley return in triumph after the King’s Stand Stakes (Edward Whitaker/PA)

All six were partnered by Sheikh Hamdan’s retained rider Jim Crowley.

He knows Sheikh Hamdan, who died on Wednesday at the age of 75, would have loved to have been in attendance.

“It was such a shame last year Sheikh Hamdan couldn’t come to Royal Ascot due to Covid and watch the horses run,” he said.

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“He had the most unbelievable year in 2020. But before that we’d had some great days.

“When Sheikh Hamdan came to the races we always had luck. It was great he could be at York to see Battaash win in 2019. That was probably one of the most satisfying days. It was great he could be there as well.”

Jim Crowley kisses the trophy after riding Battaash to the first of his two victories in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York
Jim Crowley kisses the trophy after riding Battaash to the first of his two victories in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York (Simon Cooper/PA)

Crowley, who replaced Paul Hanagan as Sheikh Hamdan’s number one at the end of 2016, felt such pride at taking the coveted position.

“It was a huge honour and a privilege to be able to to ride for him,” he said.

“He was extremely knowledgeable about his horses. He had a lot of horses in training, but he knew their pedigree inside and out. It was a huge passion for him, he loved it.

“He was very kind and generous, and loyalty is a word that stands out more than the others. You only have to look at his trainers, jockeys – everybody has been with him for the long haul. It’s just a real pleasure to have ridden for him.”

Crowley went on: “He built up a huge legacy and he’ll be missed by a lot of people.

“Sheikh Hamdan would always strive to have good horses and breed good horses as well. It’s a huge loss. He was a wonderful man and will be missed dearly.

“It’s very, very sad.”

Battaash is trained by Charlie Hills, who knew Sheikh Hamdan most of his life.

He was a big supporter of the Hills family, with Barry and son Charlie training for him and another son, Richard, being one of his retained jockeys.

Trainer Charlie Hills punches the air after Battaash finally wins at Royal Ascot
Trainer Charlie Hills punches the air after Battaash finally wins at Royal Ascot (Ed Whitaker/PA

“If you think of Sheikh Hamdan’s horses, then Battaash would have to be in the top three,” Charlie Hills said.

“Muhaarar was brilliant, winning four consecutive Group Ones as a three-year-old. He’s the only sprinter to do that. He was a highlight.

“He was the best to train for. It’s very sad. He’s been a constant presence in my life. He’s had horses with our family since the late 1990s and he’s been a great supporter.

“Sheikh Hamdan was not only a major owner-breeder, but he was always a huge presence at the sales.”

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