Dubai: It’s been 27 years since the late Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the former Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, last won the Derby (G1) , one of the world’s richest and most prestigious horse races which is run at the historic Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, England.
Come Saturday, trainer William Haggas, who had a long association with Sheikh Hamdan, will bid to deliver an emotional victory in the Classic with Mohaafeth, a horse that will race in the name of Shadwell, a breeding empire pioneered by Sheikh Hamdan.
Sheikh Hamdan, one of the most successful owners in the world, first won the Derby in 1989 with the great Nashwan and claimed a second success in the 2,400 metre contest in 1994.
A son of the legendary Frankel, Mohaafeth stormed into contention for Britain’s premier race by accumulating a hat-trick of smart wins this year.
A compelling victory in the mile and two furlongs Listed Newmarket Stakes, where he toyed with his rivals to win in a canter by five lengths, has marked him out as the horse to watch at Epsom’s big day.
As always, there so many inspiring stories being discussed about the Derby and this year is no exception with Mohaaafeth’s participation being one of the biggest talking points - given the fact that Sheikh Hamdan passed away just three months ago.
Sheikha Hissa Bint Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh Hamdan’s equine-loving daughter, recently told racing pundit Matt Chapman: “I was reminded time and time again how my father insisted on buying Mohaafeth when his advisers were split on the decision. I’ve also heard that William Haggas told my father that Mohaafeth would be his Derby horse, and everyone has worked so hard at Shadwell and Somerville Lodge to make sure that happens.”
A man who has put everything into Mohaafeth’s career is Haggas, who himself is looking for a second Derby success in 25 years following Shaamit, who won the great race for Dubai businessman Khalifa Bin Dasmal.
“People joke and say Shaamit winning the Derby is all I talk about, so I best win it again to give me something new to talk about,” Haggas told The Sun.
Mohaafeth is currently a 7-1 chance behind the dominant Irish trio of Bolshoi Ballet (7-4), High Definition (4-1) and Mac Swiney (6-1) in the international betting markets.
However, the Derby is an open contest, given the nature of the Epsom track and the fact that the horses are all just three-year-old and yet to face their biggest tests. Nobody knows this better than Haggas who said: “He has a lot of ability and is a good ground horse, so I’m hoping the weather warms up next week.
“I think he will stay the Derby trip, whether he improves for the extra couple of furlongs we will find out on the day. But there is no better race in the world to find out than the Derby.”
The Derby field also includes three Godolphin-owned and Charlie Appleby-trained contenders including Hurricane Lane, One Ruler and Adayar while Youth Spirit represents Dubai businessman Ahmed Al Shaikh - whose Khalifa Sat finished second in last year’s race behind the runaway winner Serpentine.