The Journal Gazette
Saturday, May 01, 2021 1:00 am

Owner's track record draws heat of Derby watchers

The Kentucky Derby will happen on its traditional date today, but this year's Run for the Roses isn't without controversy.

The 2020 race was moved from its usual early May starting spot because of the coronavirus pandemic. Today, horses are set to leave the starting gates at Churchill Downs around 7 p.m.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, is the source of the controversy and owns derby favorite Essential Quality. The undefeated thoroughbred was at 2-1 odds, as of Friday.

Lawyers from the University of Louisville filed a complaint this week, arguing the horse shouldn't be entered in the race because Mohammed is imprisoning his daughter. Sheikha Latifa hasn't been seen in public since 2018, when she was taken into custody on a yacht in international waters near India, according to the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald Leader.

A similar complaint was filed in 2019, but the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission rejected it. It did again, issuing a brief statement Thursday that the commission would take no action.

“In consultation with counsel, and according to Kentucky regulations, the KHRC has determined the complaint does not articulate a violation of KHRC regulations,” Executive Director Marc Guilfoyle wrote in the statement.

Mohammed won't attend the race, “although there are plenty of VIP spots in Churchill Downs where he could go unseen,” the Herald Leader reported.

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