Peitz Remembers Sheikh Hamdan

Saqeel wasn’t scratched from last Thursday’s third race at Oaklawn because of an off track, illness or injury. It was because of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s death March 24.

Sheikh Hamdan was deputy ruler of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and owner of Shadwell Stable, a global racing and breeding juggernaut that campaigns Saqeel at Oaklawn with trainer Dan Peitz. Sheikh Hamdan was 75.

Peitz said he was informed of Sheikh Hamdan’s death at 2:52 a.m. (Central) March 24 in a text message from Rick Nichols, Shadwell’s vice president and general manager. In a phone call about an hour later, Peitz said Nichols requested that Saqeel be scratched from the maiden special weights route because of Sheikh Hamdan’s death. A cause was not revealed.

“Shadwell wanted a period of mourning,” Peitz said.

An Arkansas native, Peitz’s relationship with Shadwell dates to the mid-1980s when he was an assistant under trainer Joe Cantey. Peitz said his only interaction with Sheikh Hamdan came at the famed Keeneland yearling sales each year, initially calling the experience a “little bit” intimidating.”

“But he never made it intimidating,” Peitz said. “It was just that who he was. Sandy, my wife, she went and walked around with us one year. They’d do a short list and then he would go and look at the short list of horses. When we were getting ready to leave, Sheikh Hamdan came over and Sandy kind of stepped away thinking he was coming over to thank another lady for helping. No, he was coming to see Sandy and say how nice it was to meet her. Sandy didn’t know what to say. She was like, ‘He’s coming to say that to me?’ ”

Dan Peitz has trained for Shadwell for more than 20 years and was an assistant to Cantey when he had Khozaam, a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, for Sheikh Hamdan in the mid-1980s.

After starting his career in Europe, Khozaam ran four times at the 1986 Oaklawn meeting, finishing second in the $50,000 Hot Springs Handicap and third in the $50,000 Essex Handicap (G3).

Peitz said his wife groomed Khozaam and his Nov. 23, 1986, allowance victory at Aqueduct under future Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey may have represented Sheikh Hamdan’s first in the United States.

Shadwell’s royal blue and white silks have been represented by 25 winners at Oaklawn since its first in 2001. Peitz has recorded 23 of the winners, including four with Mufajaah (2014-2015). A $375,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate, Mufajaah won Oaklawn’s $100,000 Pippin Stakes and $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares in 2015.

“Everything’s first class,” Peitz said, referring to Shadwell. “They always put the horse first. That’s the main thing.”

Alkhaatam (April 11, 2020) was Shadwell’s last Oaklawn winner while Sheikh Hamdan was alive. Alkhaatam has run in the Stephen Foster Stakes (G2) the last two years at Churchill Downs. Mufajaah and Alkhaatam are both by Tapit, among the world’s leading stallions.

Maybe the most prominent runner Shadwell has campaigned is 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, who won 11 of 12 career starts. Invasor concluded his career with a victory in $6 million Dubai World Cup (G1) in 2007 and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2013. Shadwell won an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding owner in 2007.

“Shadwell is so big all over the world,” Peitz said. “Australia, South Africa, England, Ireland. And how many races has he (Sheikh Hamdan) sponsored all over the world? God, how many people have counted on him for how many years? Just lucky to just have that association with him, just that name alone for what it means.”

When Cantey retired in 1987, Peitz said he inherited some Shadwell horses after going out on his own and starting his first runner that year. After those “three or four went by the wayside,” Peitz said he didn’t train again for Shadwell until roughly the mid-1990s, getting horses that Shadwell didn’t send to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in the UAE.

Peitz said he has three horses at Oaklawn for Shadwell and been assigned 12 2-year-olds that are now in Camden, S.C., but added he doesn’t know what the future holds following the death of Sheikh Hamdan, who started his stable roughly 40 years ago.

“That’s a higher number than it’s been recently,” Peitz said of the babies. “Recently, I’ve probably had seven or eight that have been assigned to me. They don’t all get to me because of problems and stuff. If they don’t come to me, it’s going to be a pretty hard hit for me.”

Peitz said he expects Saqeel, a 3-year-old homebred son of Daaher, to run this month at Oaklawn. Shadwell’s United States operation is based in Lexington, Ky.

Finish Lines

Make’n Tracks ($12.20) represented jockey Ken Tohill’s 3,935th career North American victory in Wednesday’s ninth race at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. It was the seventh victory at the meet for Tohill, 57, who is trying to become the 79th jockey in North American history to reach 4,000 career victories. … Matera ($8.20) was a front-running two-length allowance winner at 1 1/16 miles in Wednesday’s seventh race at Oaklawn, her first start for trainer Brad Cox. Matera, by Tapit, is out of Oaklawn stakes winner Miss Macy Sue and was purchased for $1.4 million at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Miss Macy Sue was trained by Kelly Von Hemel, whose Sunset Paula Jo ran fourth behind Matera Wednesday. … Florent Geroux was aboard Matera and won Wednesday’s eighth race aboard favored Strong Tide ($7) for trainer Mike Lauer. Both allowance races Geroux won had a $105,000 purse. Strong Tide, in the second 1 9/16-mile race in Oaklawn history, ran the marathon distance in 2:38.98 over a fast track. The winning time for Oaklawn’s first 1 9/16-mile race was 2:41.74, that coming over a sloppy track in an April 13, 2019, starter allowance. … There is no racing Sunday (Easter), but Oaklawn will be open for training from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. (Central).