12/12/2007 12:00AM

Shadwell Stable builds on its success

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum (right) with his brother Sheikh Mohammed, after Invasor's win in the 2007 Dubai World Cup.
When you win the Belmont Stakes and campaign a four-time Grade 1 winner and Horse of the Year, it's difficult to come up with a suitable encore. But Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who races under the name Shadwell Stable, enjoyed just as much success in 2007 as he did in 2006 and once again figures to be considered for an Eclipse Award as North America's leading owner.

Shadwell won eight graded stakes in 2007, with Invasor and Lahudood each winning two Grade 1 events and Daaher winning the Grade 1 Cigar Mile and Grade 2 Jerome. Makderah and Shakis also won Grade 2 stakes. When the earnings from Invasor's Dubai World Cup are included, Shadwell leads all owners in purse earnings with $7,040,283, more than $200,000 ahead of Frank Stronach.

If not for his premature retirement due to injury, Invasor would most likely have been in the running for a second straight Horse of the Year award. As it is, Invasor's victories in the Donn Handicap and Dubai World Cup are likely to make him a finalist for champion older horse.

"A win is a win everywhere, whether it's in America or in Europe or in the Emirates - which to me is special," Sheikh Hamdan, 61, said recently by phone from England. "To me, I am very happy I was lucky to get good horses the last two years in America."

Though his job as Dubai's deputy ruler and minister of finance and industry keeps him occupied, Sheikh Hamdan is very much in tune with his vast racing operation. He owns seven stud farms - five in England, one in Ireland, and one in Lexington - and approximately 200 mares worldwide. When Belmont winner Jazil and Invasor enter stud duty in 2008, Sheikh Hamdan will have approximately 24 stallions.

"He's such a smart man and student of the game," said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains the bulk of Shadwell's North American-based horses. "You bring up a horse and he'll tell you everything about its mother and father."

The success Shadwell has enjoyed the last two years reflects the commitment Sheikh Hamdan has made to American racing since the beginning of the decade, though he's had horses here since the mid-1990s. A four-time champion owner in Britain, Sheikh Hamdan has gradually increased his participation in American racing, starting more than 100 horses in each of the last four years. In 2006 and 2007, his horses made 133 starts. In 2007, Shadwell had approximately 40 horses in training, according to racing manager Rick Nichols.

This year, Sheikh Hamdan had success with the 4-year-old turf fillies Lahudood and Makderah. That they even raced at 4 is a change of philosophy for Sheikh Hamdan, who typically retires fillies after their 3-year-old season because he believes young mares produce better foals. However, in the case of Lahudood and Makderah, Sheikh Hamdan thought they had underachieved on the track in Europe.

"If I kept them in Europe maybe they will improve, but I wasn't satisfied with the philosophy of their trainers, so I sent them to the States," he said. "I talked to Nichols and I told him about them. I was right they are going to be good racemares in the states."

Lahudood, a homebred daughter of Singspiel, won 3 of 5 starts in the United States, including the Flower Bowl and Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and is likely to win the Eclipse Award as top turf filly or mare. Makderah, a homebred daughter of Danehill, won the Grade 2 New York Handicap and finished third in the Grade 1 Diana. She was retired with a cracked hind pastern while training toward the Flower Bowl.

Injuries are part of the game, and Sheikh Hamdan's stable suffered the biggest one of 2007 when Invasor fractured a sesamoid bone in his right hind ankle while training toward a start in the Suburban Handicap.

"I was sorry, but I was happy that the horse is safe," Sheikh Hamdan said. "Sometimes you lose the horse."

Invasor's success rekindled Sheikh Hamdan's interest in South American horses. In the 1990s and early this decade, Sheikh Hamdan would privately purchase horses from South America, but few panned out - until Invasor. Sheikh Hamdan has four Argentine-bred horses based with McLaughlin at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida: two Group 1 winners, and two that have simply won a maiden race. They are expected to start in January at Gulfstream with the hopes of one or more being good enough to take to Dubai for the UAE Derby on March 29.

The day after Invasor got injured, Daaher ran in the Queen's Plate at Woodbine, checking in fourth. After a third-place finish in the Prince of Wales, McLaughlin added blinkers to the colt's equipment and he won three consecutive races, including the Grade 1 Cigar Mile over Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute.

"I thought he would be a sprinter, if you want to know the truth," Sheikh Hamdan said. "It seems to me on his breeding he's a miler plus, but he looks like a sprinter; very strong horse, very sound horse, good action."

If all goes to plan, Daaher will run in the Donn Handicap in February with an eye toward the Dubai World Cup or Godolphin Mile on March 29.

While his brother Sheikh Mohammed grabs the headlines when it comes to purchases at auction, Sheikh Hamdan has made his presence felt at the sales of late. Prior to Daaher's victory in the Cigar Mile, Sheikh Hamdan purchased his full sister, Spun Sugar, in foal to A.P. Indy for $4.5 million.

He also purchased a couple of weanlings sired by Smarty Jones for modest fees of $200,000 and $140,000.

"We always buy from America," Sheikh Hamdan said. "If you see [our] stud book, more than 50 percent of them have good American blood. Now it seems to me, the world of racing, they forget about horses that stay. They like to see milers. Smarty Jones is one of the good horses who was fast and who could stay."

Sheikh Hamdan says he gets to visit his 1,350-acre Shadwell Farm near Lexington, Ky., about once a year. The only time he has seen one of his horses race in America was the 2006 Kentucky Derby, where Jazil finished in a dead heat for fourth.

"That is one of the aims for any owner, to win a Kentucky Derby if he has good horses in America," Sheikh Hamdan said.

While he didn't win the Derby, Sheikh Hamdan enjoyed one of his biggest victories at Churchill Downs in the fall 2006. That's when Invasor rallied past Bernardini - owned by his brother's Darley Stable - to win the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

"When we have time to sit and talk, we talk about the horses," Sheikh Hamdan said. "Maybe he's got a different idea and we exchange our ideas between us. He was happy that I won the race. Of course, he would have liked to win the Breeders' Cup Classic, but he accepts that Invasor was better than Bernardini."

He'll also have to accept that his brother will continue to be one of his toughest rivals when it comes to American racing.