Kentucky Derby favorite overshadowed by sheikhs controversy – Fox News
Essential Quality will enter Churchill Downs on Saturday night as the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, but there is a cloud of mystery and intrigue over the horse’s owner.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of Dubai, has faced accusations of kidnapping and holding his daughter – Princess Latifa Al Maktoum – hostage. She pleaded for help in a series of videos from her “prison” in February, the Free Latifah support group said.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) received a complaint Wednesday from human rights attorneys and University of Louisville students urging racing officials to have the sheikh banned from the Derby.
The complaint called on racing officials to prohibit Sheikh Mohammed from any races “until such time as his daughter, Princess Latifa, is free from captivity, or (b) hold an immediate public hearing to assess the serious allegations of his human rights abuses.”
Marc Guilfoil, the executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, denied the request, saying “the KHRC has determined the complaint does not articulate a violation of KHRC regulations.”
Princess Latifa was detained by commandos in India in 2018 after she tried to flee Dubai in a yacht. The United Nations human rights office has raised concerns about Latifa’s treatment and has sought evidence the princess was still alive. The UAE’s embassy in London has said the princess was allegedly being cared for by her family and medical professionals.
The Free Latifah support group has called on President Biden to intervene and pressure Sheikh Mohammed to release her. The group has said Biden is one of the few world leaders with the stature to win her freedom.
Jockey Luis Saez rides Essential Quality to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile horse race at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, on Nov. 6, 2020. Essential Quality is expected to be the first gray horse favored to win the Kentucky Derby in 25 years. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed is hunting for the elusive Derby victory. His Godolphin Racing team is well-known in Kentucky racing circles.
Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers didn’t believe the protest would gain any legs.
“Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid currently holds a valid racing license in the state of Kentucky. There have been no horse racing violations and nor are we aware of any other U.S. regulatory or governmental investigations,” Rogers said. “We are focused on the three-year-old thoroughbreds who have earned their way into this year’s Kentucky Derby and our responsibility is to the integrity of the race and the safety of those horses.”
Essential Quality is the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby and there has been talk of the horse winning the Triple Crown as well. The colt is undefeated in five races in four tracks. The horse will be shooting out of the gate from post 14.