During his illustrious career as a leading owner and breeder of top-class race horses, the late Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, won several of the world’s most prestigious races including the Epsom Derby and Melbourne Cup.
Sheikh Hamdan was associated with many horses who excelled at the very pinnacle of the sport, winning Group 1 races and Classics.
Here, we look at five horses that best defined Sheikh Hamdan’s racing career as a pioneer and seven-time winner of the coveted British Owner’s Championship
Perhaps Nashwan, Epsom Derby and 2000 Guineas winner in 1989, was the best horse that Sheikh Hamdan ever owned. An American-bred and British-trained racehorse, Nashwan developed into an outstanding performer when winning the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, Eclipse Stakes and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He was retired and stood at Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stud where he was a successful sire of winners such as Swain, the dual winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, and Bago, winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Nashwan, whose Arabic name translates to ‘Joy’, died on July 19, 2002, after suffering complications following an operation on a minor leg injury. However, it was for his exploits on the turf that Nashwan will forever be remembered as he became the first horse to win the 2000 Guineas and the Derby since Nijinsky in 1970.
Nashwan was trained by the legendary Dick Hern, a close associate and friend of Sheikh Hamdan. Hern would famously say: “I thought for a long time this could be the best horse I’ve ever trained.” Several buildings in the UAE are named after Nashwan as a tribute to his legacy.
Salsabil, the brilliant 1990 dual Classic-winning filly, was another of Sheikh Hamdan’s original stars. Bred in Ireland but trained in Britain by John Dunlop, she won seven of her nine starts during an outstanding career between September 1989 and October 1990. She was ridden in all of her races by Willie Carson. Salsabil was one of the leading two-year-old fillies in Europe in 1989, winning two races including the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp. After winning the Fred Darling Stakes on her three-year-old debut, Salsabil won both of Britain’s Classic races for fillies: the 1000 Guineas over one mile at Newmarket and the Oaks over one-and-a-half miles at Epsom. Racing against the colts, she became the first filly for 90 years to win the Irish Derby at the Curragh.
Salsabil was retired to stud where she enjoyed plenty of success as a broodmare before dying of cancer in 1996. Shadwell’s Salsabil Stud, near Bury St Edmunds, was named in her honour.
Sheikh Hamdan has had a long and successful association with sprinters and Dayjur was one of the best he owned. A specialist sprinter he ran 11 times between June 1989 and October 1990 and won seven races. In 1990 he dominated European sprinting, winning the King’s Stand Stakes, the Nunthorpe Stakes, the Sprint Cup and the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp. The Racing Post called him “the world’s fastest horse”.
Like Nashwan, Dayjur was trained by Dick Hern at West Ilsley in Berkshire and was ridden in all his races by the veteran Scottish jockey Willie Carson.
He was regarded as fifth best British sprinter of the 20th century behind Abernant, Irish Elegance, Pappa Fourway and Tetratema. On 25 September 2013 Dayjur was euthanized at Shadwell “due to the infirmities of old age”.
Taghrooda was a lightly raced filly, but during a short career she announced herself as on the best of her generation when winning the Oaks Stakes and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2014.
A Shadwell-homebred and British-trained daughter of Sea The Stars, Taghrooda finished second in the Yorkshire Oaks and third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe before being retired at the end of the season.
In 2014 Taghrooda was named Champion Three-year-old Filly at the Cartier Racing Awards and was also adjudged to be the 18th best horse to race anywhere in the world by the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. Taghrooda’s name is a reference to a form of chanted poetry used by the Bedouins of Oman and the UAE.
Battaash was arguably one of the best sprinters raced by Sheikh Hamdan and a horse that played a pivotal role in securing for him a seventh British champion owner title in 2020.
If Dayjur was the horse that defined Sheikh Hamdan’s 1990 season, last year it was Battaash, who reached the pinnacle of his career when winning the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot before landing the King George Stakes at Goodwood for a fourth time and also claiming back-to-back victories in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York. Battaash was one of Sheikh Hamdan’s six winners at Royal Ascot 2020 and was partnered by the owner’s retained rider Jim Crowley.
He was raced by Charlie Hills, who knew Sheikh Hamdan most of his life. “If you think of Sheikh Hamdan’s horses, then Battaash would have to be in the top three,” Hills said.