Hugely influential owner-breeder Sheikh Hamdan dies, aged 75

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum has died, at the age of 75.

Sheikh Hamdan, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, was a hugely prominent owner of a string of Classic and Royal Ascot winners for more than 30 years.

His blue-and-white colours, under the livery of his Shadwell Racing banner, are among the most famous throughout the racing world.

A triumphant Willie Carson aboard Derby winner Nashwan
A triumphant Willie Carson aboard Derby winner Nashwan (PA)

On Wednesday morning Sheikh Hamdan’s younger brother Sheikh Mohammed posted on Twitter: “We belong to God and to Him we shall return … May God have mercy on you, my brother, my support and my companion.”

Among the best of Sheikh Hamdan’s many Group One winners, he was most widely associated with 1989 Derby and 2000 Guineas winner Nashwan, the brilliant 1990 dual Classic-winning filly Salsabil and outstanding sprinters of different generations in Dayjur and Battaash.

Others to have carried his silks included Oaks and King George heroine Taghrooda, another Derby victor in Erhaab and two winners of the Melbourne Cup in the shape of At Talaq and Jeune, who triumphed at Flemington in 1986 and 1994 respectively.

Shadwell issued the following statement on their website: “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.

Salsabil (right), winning the Irish Derby in 1990 with Willie Carson in the saddle
Salsabil (right), winning the Irish Derby in 1990 with Willie Carson in the saddle (PA)

“It is a time to reflect on his achievements and his enormous contribution to the global thoroughbred industry. 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.”

Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation was among the first to pay tribute.

A tweet on the official account read: “Everyone at Godolphin is deeply saddened to hear of the death of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum. A great loss to Dubai and our sport. He was one of the greatest owner breeders of modern times. Our deepest condolences to His Family and all @ShadwellStud.”

Richard Hills was Sheikh Hamdan’s retained rider from 1997 until his retirement in 2012 and continued to work for him under the Shadwell banner as assistant racing manager.

“It’s really sad. We’re all devastated. From 17 years old, throughout my whole career to now,” he said.

“He was such a great man, he was like a father to me.

Nayef wins the 2001 Dubai Champion Stakes at Newmarket in the hands of Richard Hills
Nayef wins the 2001 Dubai Champion Stakes at Newmarket in the hands of Richard Hills (Haydn West/PA)

“We had some great times. I was in a lucky position. He was my friend, and I was riding his horses, which was his passion. It was joy all the way through.

“Every one of the Classic winners I rode him meant everything to me – four Guineas, an Oaks and a Leger. All of them were special.

“Nayef was great because he was out of Height Of Fashion. He was tough and he won six Group Ones. There was Almutawakel who won the Dubai World Cup.

“I rode 550 winners in Dubai. I don’t think I took a week off for 15 years.

“It was a joy to get up in the morning and ride those horses.”

Sheikh Hamdan's racing manager Angus Gold
Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold (PA)

His long-standing racing manager Angus Gold believes it was Sheikh Hamdan’s passion that was the key to his success.

“It’s a very say day. From my point of view he was an amazing man, and we spoke for the first 25 years nearly every day – whether about horses or just about what was going on in the world,” Gold told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s been a lot busier recently, so I didn’t bother him quite so much, but he’s been more than a boss.

“To have the sort of success he had you’ve got to have the passion – and he had that in abundance. He absolutely loved the business – particularly the breeding, as everyone knows. A home-bred Classic winner was the highlight for him. That’s why Nashwan was so special and close to his heart, as he always said.

“He was absolutely passionate about the business. He loved going to look at the foals and the yearlings and to see them on the racecourse – I’m sure that’s what kept him going for so long. He was so passionate about it.

“It was a truly global operation – America, Australia and South Africa – and when Dubai opened up he loved having runners and winners there in his homeland, so his influence was very global. We were very lucky he played such a big part in it.

“It was wonderful to talk to a man who was so immersed in the whole thing, the fact he was very busy in his own right in Dubai and obviously a rich and powerful man, yet what he loved was talking about his horses.

“He would often ring me about the smallest thing that you wouldn’t think he had time to notice – but he watched every runner and had very strong opinions.

“It’s too early to talk about what the future will bring. We will wait and see what Sheikh Hamdan’s family want to do, but I think just from the breeding point of view some of the families he has helped develop over the last 40 years will be around for a long time to come.”

Other Recent Posts by This Author:

Your first 30 days for just £1