Calls Mount To Ban Owner Of Derby Favorite Over Alleged Kidnapping

Apr 29, 2021

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the ruler of Dubai.
Credit World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons

Activists are calling on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to ban Derby favorite Essential Quality and his owner, the ruler of Dubai. The activists point to findings by a British court that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum kidnapped his own daughter and is holding her hostage.

Their demand is based on a 2020 fact-finding judgement by a British court, which found that Sheikh Mohammad kidnapped his then 33-year-old daughter Sheikha Latifa in 2018 as she was trying to flee the emirate and seek asylum in the United States. 

According to University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson, Sheikha Latifa made it to international waters on a U.S. ship, when Emirati and Indian forces stormed the vessel and took her and the crew captive. She has not been heard from since.

Marcosson filed the complaint, which was compiled with help from law students in the Human Rights Advocacy Program, with Los Angeles-based attorney Lisa Bloom on Wednesday.

“It is time to ban Sheikh Mohammed, everyone associated with him, and Essential Quality from the Derby, the Oaks and all horseracing events in Kentucky. Surely as a country that believes in women’s rights and the sovereignty of the American flag that is the very least we can do,” Bloom wrote in a statement.

Marcosson and Bloom filed a similar complaint with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in 2019, when Sheikh Mohammed had a horse in the Oaks. The commission did not act then because they said there wasn’t enough evidence against the sheikh. But last year’s British court ruling changes that, Marcosson said.

“The horse racing commission can’t and shouldn’t ignore the very important decision of the British court,” Marcosson told WFPL News.

He said the goal is to free Sheikha Latifa.

“We’re doing this because of a really blatant and unacceptable violation of human rights,” Marcosson said.

According to the activist attorneys, state law gives the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission the authority to ban individuals who threaten the integrity of racing, and can take actions to “dissipate any cloud of association with the undesirable.”

Marcosson said the commission has banned other people on allegations not related to horse racing, such as domestic violence, sexual assault and fraud against the federal government.

A commission spokesperson said they have received the complaint and that it’s currently under review. She said more information would be provided Thursday.

Representatives from the sheikh’s Lexington stables, Godolphin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.