By Jill Williams
Celebrating 40 Years of the Breeders' Cup
When Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum passed away early in 2021 after decades of prominence in Thoroughbred racing and breeding, it was unclear in the sport what would happen to his vast bloodstock and farm holdings. Racing needn't have worried. His daughter, Sheikha Hissa, catapulted into the public eye as the head of Shadwell right at the same time the racing stable was seeing a resurgence. The bedrock laid over decades of success by Sheikh Hamdan was the perfect foundation for stunning new success under the guidance of his daughter.
Sheikha Hissa is not yet 30, yet she seems to be instilling confidence throughout the sport–on American shores and beyond–by reinvigorating the Shadwell brand. She's doing it in Europe with Shadwell homebreds like English highweight Baaeed (GB), whose granddam was a Breeders' Cup winner for Shadwell, and she's doing it in the U.S. with sales purchases such as 2021 and 2022 champion Malathaat, who closed out her career with victory in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff.
“Shadwell Farm in America is rebranding as Shadwell Racing,” said Jonathan Smyth, general manager of the American arm. “Under the leadership of Sheikha Hissa, there is a strong passion for the business, much like her late father. It's truly exciting for all of us to be part of the next chapter of Shadwell.”
Few things in this sport inspire passion and hope more than a Breeders' Cup winner. Malathaat provided just that. The elegant bay closed out her stellar career last November with a scintillating final-stride win in the Distaff after finishing third in the same race as a sophomore in 2021. Winner of the Kentucky Oaks, Alabama, and Ashland at three, her Distaff alongside Spinster and Personal Ensign wins at four was icing on the cake.
“What a day to remember! Malathaat's Breeders' Cup win was truly spectacular,” said Smyth. “She's an extraordinary mare, and her victory was a testament to her remarkable talent and incredible determination. I remember the atmosphere at the Breeders' Cup, where the best of the best came together to put on a show.
“Malathaat's victory was the result of her not only being physically gifted but also having a beautiful, composed mind. [Trainer] Todd [Pletcher] and his team did an exceptional job preparing her for that race, and Johnny [Velazquez] gave her a thrilling ride.”
With back-to-back Eclipse Awards secure, Malathaat was retired after the Breeders' Cup and bred to leading sire Into Mischief this spring. Smyth reported she caught on the first attempt and has been determined to be carrying a filly. Despite her competitiveness and athleticism on the racetrack, Malathaat was known for her kindness off the track, making her a fan favorite.
“Malathaat's famously sweet disposition at the track has continued on the farm,” said Smyth. “She's like a big teddy bear, as kind and gentle as ever. Her friendly and amiable nature has made the transition from the track to farm life a smooth and delightful experience. She still requires peppermints, though!
“Malathaat has settled into life on the farm remarkably well,” continued Smyth. “She has a great temperament and a sweet disposition, making her a joy to be around. She has formed a close bond with [Shadwell homebred and 2021 GII Mother Goose winner] Zaajel, which is heartwarming to witness.”
Malathaat's presence in the Shadwell racing stable was a bit of a departure from the usual for Shadwell, as she was a $1.05-million buy at the Keeneland September sale from Stonestreet, who bred and consigned her, during Sheikh Hamdan's tenure. Shadwell has had a mountain of success with homebreds in the past, but hasn't shied away from sales purchases either.
“Shadwell has historically been known for its breeding-to-race approach,” said Smyth, “and that continues to be our primary focus in the American division. However, we do participate in sales as well. Sheikh Hamdan had a particular fondness for the Keeneland September sales, and it's been a wonderful tradition to carry on.
“We can't emphasize enough how fortunate we feel to have her as part of our stable. Malathaat is a beautifully balanced filly, and her walk is simply amazing. It's been an incredible journey since that acquisition, filled with victories and a deep sense of pride for Shadwell for owning a horse of such exceptional quality.”
Malathaat's dam, Dreaming of Julia, was named 2022's Broodmare of the Year for Stonestreet, based in no small part on Malathaat's contributions to her accomplishments. Like Malathaat, both her dam and granddam were Grade I winners, which never hurts when one considers the potential of her future foals.
“We have big hopes for Malathaat's future as a broodmare,” said Smyth. “We have a lot of options when it comes to selecting stallions for her, and our primary focus is on breeding to race. The plan is to race the offspring she produces and continue the tradition of excellence that Shadwell is known for in the world of horse racing.”
While it will be a minimum of nearly three years before Malathaat's first foal can have an opportunity at the races, Malathaat herself has represented new hope for the Shadwell team and an excitement for what the future holds.
“Having a successful American horse like Malathaat early on in the midst of all the changes at Shadwell, with Sheikha Hissa at the helm, is truly significant,” said Smyth. “Sheikha Hissa has achieved phenomenal success globally in the last two years and Malathaat's accomplishments are a testament to that. We hope to build on this success and uphold our commitment to continue the amazing operation her father built. It's a promising start to the next chapter of Shadwell under her leadership.”
While Malathaat may be part of the new look and new future of Shadwell Racing, the old also remains prominent. Nowhere is this more evident than with another Breeders' Cup winner, 2007 Filly & Mare Turf victress Lahudood (GB). Following a French campaign, the Shadwell homebred was supplemented to the Breeders' Cup for $180,000 after a win in the GI Flower Bowl. Eventually named champion grass mare in the U.S., Lahudood was part of the lone Breeders' Cup edition at Monmouth Park. That renewal tends to be remembered as much for the soggy conditions as for the winners.
“On the day Lahudood triumphed at the Breeders' Cup,” remembered Smyth, “the ground was exceptionally soft due to the rain at Monmouth Park. Undeterred by the conditions, she displayed exceptional skill and resilience. She broke from the gate very well and encountered some tight spots in the pack. However, a remarkably tough-minded filly, [she] held her own and found herself in second place at the halfway mark. As they reached the final turn, she surged forward with unwavering determination and astonishing speed, never slowing down. Her victory was a testament to her remarkable spirit.
“The translation of Lahudood's name, meaning 'no frontiers', couldn't be more fitting. It perfectly encapsulates her fearless and boundless determination on the track.”
Yet, remarkably, Lahudood's Breeders' Cup win would not be her biggest contribution to the Shadwell program. Herself a third-generation Shadwell homebred tracing directly to the wonderful Height of Fashion (Fr), Lahudood has done much to boost that line since Sheikh Hamdan's death. Height of Fashion, of course, was famously acquired from Queen Elizabeth II and produced the magnificent Shadwell homebred champion and G1 Epsom Derby winner Nashwan, as well as additional highweights Nayef and Unfuwain and three more stakes winners. While a number of top-class winners trace to her through her daughters and their descendants, it's a safe bet Lahudood might be responsible for her greatest current legacy.
Lahudood's French black-type winning daughter, the Kingmambo mare Aghareed, is the dam of not only Baaeed–a spectacular 10 for 11 in 2021 and 2022 at the most elite level–but also of Hukum (Ire), another multiple Group 1 winner in 2022 and 2023.
“The satisfaction of having a homebred like Lahudood win the Breeders' Cup,” said Smyth, “and then continue to provide excitement through her progeny is immense. Sheikh Hamdan's deep love for homebred fillies makes this accomplishment even more significant. It's a true testament to the success and legacy of their breeding program.”
Baaeed, a son of Sea The Stars (Ire), retired to Shadwell's Nunnery Stud in the UK at the end of 2022 and covered his first mares this year. Hukum, his full-brother, remains in the ownership of Shadwell but will stand his first season at Darley Japan in 2024.
“Without a doubt, the influence of a mare like Lahudood being the second dam of Baaeed and Hukum is nothing short of remarkable,” said Smyth. “She holds a special place within Shadwell's breeding program, and her impact is profound. Owning a mare of such caliber is a testament to the depth and quality of Shadwell's breeding families. It showcases a dedication to preserving and elevating the standards of Thoroughbred racing and breeding. The influence of this exceptional mare continues to shape Shadwell's breeding program, and her legacy is a source of pride for the Shadwell family and all who appreciate the beauty and power of these magnificent animals.”
Lahudood, now 20, had her final foal in 2021. By Kitten's Joy, the colt has been named Sumood and has not yet raced. Smyth said two of Lahudood's daughters remain part of Shadwell's broodmare band in Kentucky.
“We have great hopes that the mares will take after their older sister and produce high-end athletes,” said Smyth.
As for Lahudood, she's been pensioned “and is living her best life in our sheds with the other retired mares.”
Shadwell has had other Breeders' Cup successes over the years, most notably with 2006 Classic winner Invasor (Arg), Horse of the Year in both the U.S. and Uruguay, and 2016 Dirt Mile winner Tamarkuz. Still owned by Shadwell, Invasor spent most of his stud career in Uruguay, where he was recently pensioned. Tamarkuz stands at Ballycroy Bloodstock in Canada. Shadwell's American arm is not currently standing any stallions.
“The American division of Shadwell–Shadwell Farm–was established in 1984,” said Smyth. “It has been a significant part of Shadwell's global success in the horse racing industry.
“As for the future of Shadwell, we're all looking forward to continuing the remarkable legacy of Shadwell and the exciting developments that lie ahead. It's a joy to see the Shadwell legacy continued with such dedication and enthusiasm.”
In addition to all those top-class homebreds gracing the fields, four yearling fillies purchased at the recent Keeneland September sale will be added to the racing stable and eventually the broodmare ranks. Sheikha Hissa attended the sale and personally picked them out, said Smyth. Among the purchases were a $2.3-million Into Mischief filly and a $1.1-million Medaglia d'Oro filly.
“It's an exciting blend of the old and new, combining our traditional breeding approach with strategic sales acquisitions to continue Shadwell's success in the racing world,” said Smyth.
From a freshly retired Breeders' Cup winner carrying her first foal to a pensioned Breeders' Cup winner who has contributed so significantly to the tremendous success synonymous with the Shadwell brand, the new Shadwell Racing is poised to honor the past as it melds into the future.
Later this week, Shadwell Racing has homebred Mostahdaf (Ire) pointing to the 40th renewal of the Breeders' Cup Turf. A win by the dual Group 1 winner would add yet another page to the sequel now being written at Shadwell. Win or lose, yet another Breeders' Cup contender seems a fitting way to honor Sheikh Hamdan's legacy and usher in the future with Sheikha Hissa at the helm.