On 20th June 1977, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, enjoyed his first international winner with a filly called Hatta, at Brighton Racecourse in the UK.
Hatta’s win combined his lifelong love of horses and ignited his passion for racing.
While the opening day of Royal Ascot will be the centre of attention on 20 June, it is by no means the only racing fixture of the day as Tuesday also sees racing take place at Brighton, where exactly 40 years ago, Hatta became the very first winner for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed.
Sheikh Mohammed had first attended the races with his older brother, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan, some ten years earlier while studying in Cambridge. Together they saw Royal Palace win the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and from then on, the seed was sown.
Hatta was bought at the October Yearling Sale for just 6,200 guineas and was sent into training with John Dunlop.
Prior to her appearance at Brighton, Hatta had finished a creditable sixth at Sandown Park, before being beaten just a length at Kempton on her next start. She was sent off as favourite to take the five-furlong contest and certainly didn’t disappoint, taking the lead a furlong from home and eventually winning by five lengths.
Hatta went on to record two more easy victories at Salisbury and Sandown Park, before stepping up to Group company in the G3 Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood. Despite being outpaced early on – and indeed at the halfway stage – Hatta demonstrated a devastating turn of foot inside the final furlong to sweep to the front and win by two and a half lengths.
Four years later, Sheikh Mohammed purchased Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket from the Philipps family and his breeding dynasty began. There was just one stallion standing at Dalham Hall Stud at the time, Great Nephew, sire of that year’s Derby winner Shergar. The purchase also included ten mares, one of whom was named Oh So Fair, who was carrying subsequent Fillies’ Triple Crown winner Oh So Sharp.
The Darley stallions now stand in seven countries around the world and have sired numerous Champions and G1 winners. Sheikh Mohammed’s international horseracing stable, Godolphin, was founded in 1992 and since then the famous royal blue silks have been carried to victory in over 4,000 races in 14 countries across the globe.
Sheikh Mohammed has been an extremely generous supporter of racing, on a scale never previously seen. This generosity has been driven by a genuine passion for horses, the thoroughbred in particular, and his regard and respect for those working with them.
He has contributed to virtually every avenue racing has to offer, worldwide, as well as domestically in Dubai, and also at his summer base, Newmarket in Suffolk, UK.
Sheikh Mohammed recognised the need to provide opportunity for future generations to become involved in the racing industry. The Godolphin Flying Start and Masar Godolphin projects have been instrumental in uncovering some of the most talented young people and opening up key opportunities for them in a variety of countries.
His vision is to give young talent wide experience in a number of different spheres in racing and to nurture future industry leaders, who can contribute long-term to the success of the thoroughbred industry.
Sheikh Mohammed’s love of the horse is ever present. A natural horseman, who has ridden all his life, his dream of establishing the Dubai World Cup, fulfilled more than two decades ago, was the opportunity to celebrate the ‘home-coming’ of the Thoroughbred to the Middle East, where the origins of the breed, through the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerley Turk, were established.
The Godolphin Lifetime Care is a natural extension of the passion and respect Sheikh Mohammed has for his horses. Through the Godolphin Rehoming programme horses who have reached the end of their racing careers are helped to achieve their potential in other spheres and disciplines.
Those who work with horses are also among those recognised, through the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards, a scheme wholeheartedly supported by Sheikh Mohammed, who acknowledges their hard work and dedication, which form the backbone of the sport.
Sheikh Mohammed has also been an enthusiastic supporter of charities and research projects so important to furthering the knowledge and understanding of all that the sport of horseracing entails.
What began 40 years ago has blossomed and flourished into a wide-reaching extension of Sheikh Mohammed’s passion that touches all corners of the horseracing industry and sport he loves so much.