Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Human rights lawyers have filed a formal complaint with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, asking the state agency to ban Sheikh Mohammed and his morning line favorite, Essential Quality, from the Kentucky Derby. . Lawyers claim Sheikh Mohammed is guilty of human rights abuses in the case of two of his adult daughters who allegedly tried to leave his home and were forcibly returned to Dubai.
In 2019, Sheikh Mohammed’s wife, Princess Haya, fled Dubai with her two children and filed for divorce in a British High Court. Court proceedings, which Sheikh Mohammed tried to keep secret, determined in 2020 that the ruler of Dubai had indeed kidnapped his two daughters and had “led a sustained campaign of fear, intimidation and harassment” against Princess Haya, who got the divorce.
The same legal team, which includes the University of Louisville Human Rights Advocacy Project, filed a similar lawsuit last year, but was dismissed because it was based on news reports rather than the findings of a court.
State racing commissions can and do review a licensee’s criminal history when applying for a license, but it’s unclear whether those findings would apply to an existing license in the same way. . Writing for the Lexington Herald-Leader, columnist Linda Blackford questions whether the commission should get involved in such a complaint, which lawyers say is primarily designed to draw attention to the plight of the Sheikh’s family.
“Thoroughbred horse racing has always been full of princes and potentates, scoundrels and swindlers; where would the racing commission even begin to turn away morally compromised people? writes Blackford. “And speaking of which, do we really think the racing commission should even get close to geopolitical power plays?”
Godolphin’s representatives have already indicated that the Sheikh has no plans to attend this year’s Derby.
Learn more about the Lexington Herald-Leader