Officials reject call to bar Sheikh Mohammed from Kentucky Derby

Los Angeles (AFP) –


The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Thursday rejected a bid to bar Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, owner of Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality, following concern over the whereabouts of his daughter.

A group of human rights lawyers and students at the University of Louisville filed the complaint with the commission, saying he should be suspended from involvement with racing in Kentucky until he can prove that his daughter Sheikha Latifa is safe and free.

On Thursday, two days before the $3 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs launches US flat racing's Triple Crown, the KHRC rejected the complaint.

"The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) received a complaint against licensee Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum on April 28, 2021," Executive Director Marc A. Guilfoil said in a statement.

"In consultation with counsel, and according to Kentucky regulations, the KHRC has determined the complaint does not articulate a violation of KHRC regulations."

International human rights activists have alleged that Sheikh Mohammed -- vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is one of the seven emirates -- has been holding his daughter Latifa against her wishes after she tried to flee the country in 2018.

The fate of the 35-year-old remains a mystery and a cause of international concern, with the United Nations urging the UAE to provide proof she is alive after the BBC broadcast a video in which Latifa said she was being held captive.

Latifa's older sister Sheikha Shamsa disappeared from the British city of Cambridge in 2000, with an English court ruling that year that Sheikh Mohammed orchestrated her forcible return home.

The complaint sent to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is similar to one filed by Brandeis Law School professor Sam Marcosson and the University of Louisville Human Rights Advocacy Project in 2019, which the commission dismissed on grounds that it was based on press reports.

Thursday's decision means racing fans can expect to see Essential Quality, installed as the early 2-1 favorite, line up for the 147th edition of the Run for the Roses on Saturday, with Panamanian jockey Luis Saez in the irons.

It's yet another chance for Sheikh Mohammed's mighty Godolphin Racing, a global force in thoroughbred racing and breeding, to finally win the Kentucky Derby.

In 11 prior attempts, Godolphin's best finish was the fourth place by Frosted in 2015.