Whenever Her Highness Sheikha Hissa goes to the races in England, her beloved late father Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, a titan of the sport for decades, is never far from her side.
In a fitting tribute to his memory, the 26-year-old carries — on the right side of her abaya — a small photograph of Sheikh Hamdan, who founded the global Shadwell horse racing and breeding empire which she inherited upon his death last year.
“He comes with me always,” Sheikha Hissa explained in an emotional television interview earlier in the summer after Baaeed had won the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. The bond between father and daughter was strong. On his passing, she wrote on social media: “People lost a father, I lost my best friend.”
And his image carried on a badge will certainly be on display at Ascot on October 15 when Sheikha Hissa will watch Baaeed in his last ever race in the Champion Stakes.
Baaeed, which loosely translated means ‘far away’, has won all ten of his races, most recently at York in the International Stakes. His scintillating performance there drew comparisons with the great Frankel.
The fact that Baaeed is even being mentioned in such glowing terms is a fitting legacy for Sheikh Hamdan whose breeding operation has produced a clutch of equine superstars over the years.
It is a shame the late Deputy Ruler of Dubai did not live to see the son of Sea the Stars ever run.
The breeding dynasty was founded 40 years ago when Sheikh Hamdan visited the royal stud of Queen Elizabeth II at Sandringham in Norfolk and bought a filly named Height of Fashion from Her Majesty for a reported £1.5 million. Baaeed, a fifth generation direct descendant, is now worth an estimated £50m.
“For me and my family Baaeed means the world,” Sheikha Hissa continued. “He is homebred. The whole lineage goes back to Height of Fashion.”
Although the Prix de l’arc de Triomphe was another option for the champion four-year-old, Sheikha Hissa and her advisers, trainer William Haggas and Shadwell’s racing manager Angus Gold opted on Wednesday for his finale on ‘home turf’ in England.
Gold, who has worked for Shadwell since 1987, helped Sheikha Hissa overhaul the Shadwell empire which has been slimmed down significantly since Sheikh Hamdan passed away.
From 450 horses in training worldwide together with 220 broodmares, numbers have reduced to about 85 and 50 respectively.
“It was a big exercise which took a lot of organising,” Gold explained. “We kept the ones we felt had the most potential plus a few very well bred we had not been able to run.”
Baaeed’s impact on Sheikha Hissa and her family has been profound.
“I have told them to try to enjoy it because this doesn’t happen very often This is the best horse I have been around in 36 years, which shows how rare they are,” Gold added.
“It is very hard to appreciate something if you come into a business and have this success immediately. I am sure it’s a huge thing for the whole family, even those not as interested as Sheikha Hissa. People are coming up to them and congratulating them in Dubai. When they see they own the greatest horse in the world, it is a huge boost.
“It has been a huge learning curve for Sheikha Hissa but she has been fantastic to deal with. She is incredibly knowledgeable.”
Ironically, Gold was working at the Sandringham stud for the Queen when Sheikh Hamdan bought Height of Fashion.
“Everyone was asking why on Earth would anyone want to pay that much for a filly? But then she came and bred the likes of Nashwan (who won the 1989 Derby) and Unfuwain.
“Sheikh Hamdan adored Height of Fashion. And so it is especially meaningful and poignant that Baaeed is descended from her. As sheikh Hamdan passed, Baaeed arrived so he means much more to the family than the average horse. It was like he was sent to help them through the transition period and put them on the right footing.
“Sheikh Hamdan was a very gentle man. The greatest thing about him was his overall passion for this sport, not just racing but particularly breeding.
“He loved every aspect of the breeding. He was humble in victory and gracious in defeat. He understood the business, knew things went wrong and took the bad news amazingly well. ”
Maureen Haggas, the trainer’s wife and daughter of Lester Piggott, summed up Baaeed and his huge appeal.
“He is a dude, he loves the attention. He knows he is a superstar. He has people coming in most days to see him and he loves it. He stands in the yard and poses for half an hour. He knows he is something special.
“He is the horse of a lifetime. We will never have another horse like this. He is very different. Everything is very easy for him. He is a pleasure to train, straightforward, charming, and with a great character and a huge amount of ability.
“Baaeed forms a great link between Sheikh Hamdan and his daughter. Hopefully this horse will help to keep Shadwell alive and thriving in years to come. That would be great and an incredible legacy.”