Horse racing rocked by tragic death of Melbourne Cup-winning owner

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·6-min read
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, pictured here at the racetrack.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum died in Dubai at age 75. Image: Dubai Media Office/Getty

The world of horse racing is mourning the death of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who won the Melbourne Cup with At Talaq (1986) and Jeune (1994).

One of the most influential figures in horse racing over the past four decades, Hamdan died at the age of 75 on Wednesday.

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His brother, Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, announced the tragic news on Twitter.

Sheikh Hamdan enjoyed huge success on the racecourse, winning both the Epsom Derby and Melbourne Cup twice.

His blue-and-white colours were most recently carried to glory by champion sprinter Battaash last year.

Charlie Hills trainer of Battaash paid tribute not only to his success as a breeder and owner, but his human side too.

"From a phone call when we went into lockdown in January to check my family was OK, to taking James and Eddie onto the podium after Battaash won his first Nunthorpe," tweeted Hills.

"Just a couple of examples of the kindness of Sheikh Hamdan. Our sport has lost one of its finest."

The United Arab Emirates' long-serving finance minister, Hamdan had been unwell for months and had surgery abroad in October.

It was announced in February he was closing his Australian thoroughbred operation, severing ties closing in on four decades.

Dubai announced 10 days of mourning with flags to be flown at half-mast and a closure of government institutions in the emirate for three days as of Thursday.

The funeral ceremony for Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, pictured here in Dubai.
The funeral ceremony for Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. (Image: AAP)

Horse racing world pays tribute to Sheikh Hamdan

The Sheikh's first choice jockey 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 a honour and a privilege to ride for him, my thoughts are with his family Rest in peace."

Aside from spending liberally at the horse sales each year he was also a successful breeder and generous sponsor of races.

Sheikh Hamdan also owned three stud farms, in England, Ireland and in the hotbed of thoroughbred breeding in the United States, Kentucky.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, pictured here in Dubai.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)

His two Derby successes came with Nashwan (1989) and Erhaab (1994).

Richard Hills rode many winners for Sheikh Hamdan before assuming the role of assistant racing manager at his Shadwell operation.

"It's very sad news," he said in comments carried in the Racing Post.

"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. He'll be sorely missed."

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Sheikh Hamdan was patron of the Arabian Racing Organisation and the motivating force behind the establishment of the Dubai International Arabian Races, Europe's premier Arabian racing programme which has its finals day at Newbury racecourse each year.

In 2006, an explosive civil lawsuit filed in the US clouded Sheikh Hamdan's lofty sports reputation.

The plaintiffs accused him and Sheikh Mohammed of abducting, enslaving and forcing tens of thousands of boys, some as young as two years old, to work under brutal conditions as camel riders.

The horrific revelations transformed the backbone of the popular Arab sport of camel racing, prompting the UAE to ban the practice and use small remote-controlled robots to whip the camels instead.

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