Ahmad Al Shaikh 'honoured' to have Khalifa Sat represent UAE in Epsom Derby

Tom Marquand, who was on board Khalifa Sat in his last start at Goodwood, retains the ride

Khalifa Sat ridden by Tom Marquand wins the Coral/EBF Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood Racecourse. PA Photo. Issue date: Sunday June 14, 2020. See PA story RACING Goodwood. Photo credit should read: George Selwyn/PA Wire

Owner Ahmad Al Shaikh has said it will be a "great honour" to fly the flag for the UAE when Khalifa Sat takes his place in Saturday's Epsom Derby.

Khalifa Sat is the only Emirati-owned runner among the 17 early entries for this year's Derby, which was won in 2018 by Godolphin's Masar.

"I was surprised to learn Khalifa Sat was the sole flag bearer for the UAE in the race," Al Shaikh told The National.

“For me, it’s a great honour to have a runner in the Derby, which is one of the most prestigious races worldwide. If he can run a good race or finish in the top five, it would certainly be a bonus.”

Khalifa Sat, trained by Andrew Balding, has won two of his three races, and came into the Derby picture after his success in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood on June 14.

“The trainer and I are keen to see him take his chance after his impressive win at Goodwood,” Al Shaikh said.

“He’s a good horse and he’s shown a lot of improvement this year as a three year old. He looks like a Group horse to me but I wouldn’t know how well he would handle Epsom.

“It is one of the most difficult racetracks. You may have a good horse but he may not be suited for this kind of track. If he handles it well, I believe he can finish in the top five."

Tom Marquand, who was on board Khalifa Sat in his last start at Goodwood, retains the ride after he lost out on Derby favourite English King to Frankie Dettori.

“I think he holds attributes that are pretty strong factors in whether you run well or not at Epsom,” Marquand said of Khalifa Sat.

“He showed at Goodwood he handles a tricky track, he's shown he's capable of winning, has a great attitude and he's pretty versatile with the ground.

“It's great to have a ride in the race and a decent ride at that.”

With the British Horseracing Authority announcing a maximum of two owners per horse allowed to attend the behind-closed-doors meetings from June 1, Al Shaikh is planning to fly over for the Derby meeting.

“I heard the news and have already started my travel plans,” Al Shaikh said.

“It’s a dream for any racehorse owner to be there at the Derby, even though it will be closed for the public. I will do my best to be there despite all the travel restrictions.”