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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.

“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.”

A legacy that will live on – Sheikh Hamdan’s impact was immense

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum made an indelible mark on the world of horse racing.

Born on December 25, 1945, the son of the late ruler of Dubai, Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and older brother of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh Hamdan was the deputy ruler of Dubai, as well as being the Minister of Finance and Industry of the United Arab Emirates.

Having attended Bell School of Languages in Cambridge between 1967 and 1968, he was the deputy prime minister of the UAE between 1971 and 1973.

He shared his love for horses with his brothers, and his influence on the world racing scene cannot be overstated, not only through the exploits of brilliant racehorses such as Nashwan and Dayjur and so many others, but also across the industry.

Sheikh Hamdan and his sprint sensation Battaash
Sheikh Hamdan and his sprint sensation Battaash (Simon Cooper/PA)

His Shadwell Stud breeding operation reached around the world – with horses trained in America, Australia, Dubai, South Africa, Ireland and France – and his investment in the sport is virtually unquantifiable, from bloodstock to sponsorship and people and property.

Sheikh Hamdan enjoyed his first winner in Britain in 1980, and Al Bahathri was one of his first truly top-class fillies – narrowly touched off in the 1985 1000 Guineas before going on to make amends in the Irish equivalent.

She also won the Coronation and Falmouth Stakes, with Sheikh Hamdan later funding one of the main training gallops in Newmarket and naming it in her honour.

Nashwan was an impressive Derby victor
Nashwan was an impressive Derby victor (PA)

Crowned champion owner in Britain nine times and a leading figure in the creation of Godolphin, undoubtedly his most famous horse was the home-bred Nashwan, who lit up the 1989 Flat season with his victories in the 2000 Guineas and Derby under Willie Carson.

Dayjur was, of course, a sprinter to behold – heartbreakingly failing to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint when jumping a shadow close to the line – and more recently Battaash has been another sprint king in the blue and white silks.

Many other Classic victories came Sheikh Hamdan’s way – and the brilliant filly Salsabil famously beat the colts in the 1990 Irish Derby. He even won the Melbourne Cup, twice, through At Talaq (1986) and Jeune (1994).

Mohaather proved an exceptional competitor for Sheikh Hamdan last year
Mohaather proved an exceptional competitor for Sheikh Hamdan last year (Steven Cargill/PA)

Dubai World Cup success has been his, with Almutawakel (1999), Invasor (2007), and just last season Mohaather oozed class in winning the Sussex Stakes.

Speak to any of his trainers or retained jockeys, and they all say the same – a gentleman to deal with, loyal and blessed with an incredible passion for his horses.

Perhaps a pivotal moment for Sheikh Hamdan’s breeding empire was the decision to purchase Height Of Fashion from the Queen for a reported £1.5million in 1982.

The Queen and Sheikh Hamdan at Royal Ascot in 2002
The Queen and Sheikh Hamdan at Royal Ascot in 2002 (Tony Harris/PA)

While Height Of Fashion disappointed in two starts in his colours, she was to prove a broodmare of the very highest order – with the aforementioned Nashwan, plus his siblings Unfuwain and Nayef, among her outstanding progeny.

Her daughter Sarayir went on to produce 1,000 Guineas winner Ghanaati, while Oaks heroine Eswarah was a daughter of Unfuwain. The fact last year’s Royal Ascot winner Hukum has Height Of Fashion as his fifth dam admirably illustrates the impact of that inspired buy.

Sheikh Hamdan’s legacy will live on through the Shadwell banner – and the memories of those great horses that carried his instantly-recognisable silks are unlikely to ever fade.

Sheikh Hamdan’s greatest horses

From Nashwan to Dayjur, some of the greatest names of the Turf have carried Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s colours to victory over the years. There are too many to mention, but here is a very select few:

Nashwan (Major Dick Hern)

Nashwan powered to victory in the Derby under Willie Carson
Nashwan powered to victory in the Derby under Willie Carson (PA)

Ask anyone to name a horse associated with Sheikh Hamdan, and most would surely answer ‘Nashwan’. He bestrode the 1989 season as a colossus, winning the 2000 Guineas, the Derby, the Eclipse and the King George. It was decided to aim him at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe rather than go for the Triple Crown in the St Leger at Doncaster, but he was beaten in his trial, the Prix Niel, and did not run again.

Salsabil (John Dunlop)

Salsabil (right) beat the colts in the Irish Derby
Salsabil (right) beat the colts in the Irish Derby (PA)

An exceptional filly meticulously nurtured by her trainer, not only to land the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks in 1990 but also to go on and defeat the colts in the Irish Derby when her victims included Epsom hero Quest For Fame. After becoming the first filly to strike since Gallaria in 1900, Salsabil was described by Dunlop as “the best animal I have ever trained and is quite outstanding”.

Dayjur (Major Dick Hern)

Has there ever been a more brilliant European sprinter than Dayjur? Group One wins in 1990 came his way in the Nunthorpe, Haydock Sprint Cup and the Prix de l’Abbaye, before his date with destiny awaited in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on dirt at Belmont Park. What happened that day is etched in Turf folklore – because with the race at his mercy, Willie Carson’s mount jumped a shadow 50 yards from home, after battling to the lead. That was enough to see him lose out in heartbreaking fashion to Safely Kept.

Sakhee (John Dunlop/Saeed bin Suroor)

Sakhee was sensational in the Juddmonte International
Sakhee was sensational in the Juddmonte International (John Giles/PA)

Undoubtedly one of the finest horses to carry Sheikh Hamdan’s silks, finishing second in the 2000 Derby to Sinndar and then fourth to Giant’s Causeway in the Eclipse, in a portent of what was to come. The son of Bahri joined Godolphin for his four-year-old season, winning the Juddmonte International and Arc before being beaten a nose by Tiznow in an unforgettable Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Erhaab (John Dunlop)

Mister Baileys leads the field in the Derby, with Erhaab poised mid-division on the rail
Mister Baileys leads the field in the Derby, with Erhaab poised mid-division on the rail (PA)

Perhaps not as brilliant as some in the blue and white, Erhaab was still a very smart performer – as wins in the 1994 Dante and Derby attest. He was third in the Eclipse subsequently, with his last run coming when seventh in the King George.

Taghrooda (John Gosden)

Taghrooda and Paul Hanagan raced to victory in the Oaks
Taghrooda and Paul Hanagan raced to victory in the Oaks (Adam Davy/PA)

Like Salsabil, Taghrooda was a brilliant filly who showed she could mix it against the colts. She shot to prominence in the Pretty Polly on her three-year-old bow and backed up the impression she created at Newmarket with an emphatic success in the Oaks. The Sea The Stars filly then won the King George – and after finishing second in the Yorkshire Oaks, she ended her career with third place to Treve in the 2014 Arc.

Invasor (Kiaran McLaughlin)

The Argentinian-bred was purchased by Sheikh Hamdan after winning the Uruguay Triple Crown – and it was to prove a very shrewd acquisition. Transferred to America, the son of Candy Stripes won four Grade Ones in 2006, culminating in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He reappeared in February the following year, taking another Grade One, before going on to glory in the Dubai World Cup.

Nayef (Marcus Tregoning)

Nayef and Richard Hills win the Juddmonte International
Nayef and Richard Hills win the Juddmonte International (Gareth Copley/PA)

Nashwan’s half-brother went into winter quarters unbeaten in two juvenile outings and labelled a champion in waiting. Those dreams initially came to an abrupt halt when he was beaten at odds on in the Craven and finished only eighth in the 2000 Guineas. Given a break, he returned to pick up three Group Three contests and ended the year with victory in the Champion Stakes. He further demonstrated his class as a four-year-old, landing the Dubai Sheema Classic and Juddmonte International, as well as being runner-up to Golan in the King George. He stayed in training at five, too, running with great credit to be third in the Dubai World Cup and winning the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Bahri (John Dunlop)

Bahri and Willie Carson power to victory in the QEII
Bahri and Willie Carson power to victory in the QEII (Adam Butler/PA)

Promising if not obviously remarkable at two, the Riverman colt developed into a top-notch performer in his Classic season, finishing third in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas before hitting the Group One target in the St James’s Palace Stakes. He was narrowly beaten by Sayyedati in the Sussex Stakes and then tried a mile and a quarter in the Juddmonte International, where only Halling was too good. He returned to a mile at Ascot to win the QEII – a race in which Carson memorably chartered a wide path under the trees, a manoeuvre to this day referred to as the ‘Bahri route’.

Battaash (Charlie Hills)

Battaash has dominated Glorious Goodwood
Battaash has dominated Glorious Goodwood (Adam Davy/PA)

Given the exploits of Dayjur, it seems rather fitting that another sprinter showed off the same colours to such great effect 30 years later. Magnificent at his best, a deserved Royal Ascot victory came his way last year, to go with two Nunthorpes and an Abbaye. Remarkably, he has won won the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood four years running. He will be back this season to add to his laurels.