Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum Image Credit: WAM/Gulf News archives

Dubai: Two-time British champion jockey Jim Crowley led the sporting world’s tributes to Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance and Industry, who passed away on Wednesday, March 24.

Crowley, who has been a rider on retainer for Sheikh Hamdan since 2016 and who helped him win a seventh Champion Owner’s title in 2020, described Sheikh Hamdan as an “honest and loyal man.”

Taking to Twitter, Ascot-born Crowley said: “So very sad of the passing of HH Sheikh Hamdam Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, You would not meet a more honest and loyal man, 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.”

Shadwell, the British headquarters of Sheikh Hamdan’s powerful breeding empire released an official statement and called for a period of reflection of his achievements.

“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.

“It is a time to reflect on his achievements and his enormous contribution to the global Thoroughbred and Arabian industries. 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,” it said.

Richard Hills, assistant racing manager to the Shadwell operation and a former retained rider to Sheikh Hamdan, said: “It’s very sad news. 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. I last spoke to him only a couple of weeks ago and he’ll be sorely missed.”

Legendary British handler John Gosden, who trained Sheikh Hamdn’s 2014 Oaks winner Taghrooda said: “I’ve been fortunate to train for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum since the 1980s when I was in California. He’s always been an absolute gentleman with a true passion for his horses and a profound and intimate knowledge of them.

“He enjoyed being close to his horses whether on the stud farm, the racecourse or the stables. Sheikh Hamdan was a most respected, loyal, kind and humorous man of great depth and judgement.

“[He was ] a huge contributor to the development of his country and a truly great international owner, breeder and philanthropist in the world wide racing industry. He will be greatly missed.”

Five-time Epson Derby-winning trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who has trained some of Sheikh Hamdan’s top horses like 2018 Commonwealth Cup winner Eqtidaar, added: “Sheikh Hamdan had a great knowledge of and love for his horses. He made a significant contribution to British racing and has left an admiral legacy. He will be greatly missed.”

Charlie Hills trained one of Sheikh Hamdan’s best sprinters, Battaash, among many others. He tweeted: “From a phone call when we went into lockdown in January to check my family was ok, to taking James and Eddie [his sons] onto the podium after Battaash won his first Nunthorpe – [these are] just a couple of examples of the kindness of Sheikh Hamdan. Our sport has lost one of its finest.”

Another Derby-winning handler William Haggas said that the sport of horseracing has lost a true friend.

“Sheikh Hamdan was a kind, loyal, generous, sporting man who enriched the lives of all who knew him and many who didn’t.

“He was a major presence in every facet of the racing industry, both on and off the track, and had a fantastic memory and huge passion for breeding as well as racing.

“Personally speaking, our lives changed when we met him in 2005 and they’ll change again now he has left us. I’m very proud to have known him and will miss his support and enthusiasm dearly.”

Ed Dunlopm, whose father trained Salsabil and Sheikh Hamdan’s Derby-winner Erhaab paid tribute and said: “It’s a sad day for world horseracing. Sheikh Hamdan first had horses with my father, John, and he supported me through that connection as he was an incredibly loyal man to my family. He’ll be sadly missed by the racing industry and also in Dubai where he was a great finance minister.”

In Dubai, champion trainer Satish Seemar said Sheikh Hamdan’s passing was another blow to the horse racing industry following Sheikh Rashid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the late Ruler of Dubai, and Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

“It’s a big loss for the industry,” said Seemar. “Personally I have trained nice horses for Sheikh Hamdan and he was one of the nicest owners in horse racing. He was a very hands-on person and he was so knowledgeable.

“He would himself name his horses and he grew his operation into one of the biggest in the world.

Doug Watson, another champion trainer in the UAE, said Sheikh Hamdan’s passing was a “great loss”.

“He was just such a wonderful man and our heart goes out to his family. It’s a bit shocking and hard to comprehend it all at the moment.”