Sheikh Mohammed instigates return of the maroon and white

Gone but not forgotten – and now to be revived.

The famous maroon and white silks synonymous with so many turf champions, including Oh So Sharp, Pebbles and Singspiel, are being brought back to Britain's racecourses by Sheikh Mohammed.

The sport's biggest owner will continue to front the global Godolphin operation – in whose blue silks Harry Angel won the Darley July Cup on Saturday on the sheikh's 68th birthday – but a partnership linked to his daughter, Sheikha Al Jalila, now has a string of horses in training at Newmarket with John Gosden who will soon begin to appear on tracks.

The colours of maroon, white sleeves and maroon cap with white star were listed in the latest edition of the Racing Calendar as registered to Sheikha Al Jalila Racing. 


Sheikha Al Jalila with her father Sheikh Mohammed at Royal Ascot, photo Liesl King


In a further nod to nostalgia, the blue and white colours carried to victory by Hatta, Sheikh Mohammed's first winner as an owner at Brighton 40 years ago, have been registered to the Dubai ruler's son Sheikh Zayed.

Sheikh Mohammed told the Racing Post: "These colours represented for me many different chapters of my journey in the racing world. They were associated with some of the most joyful memories and will be forever connected to some of the greatest equine legends and inspiring training and horsemanship.

"I am so proud to pass them on to my children, Jalila and Zayed, who both share my passion for horses, love of this sport, and are developing the greatest respect for the racing family."

A golden era

The maroon and white became some of Flat racing's most dominant colours during a golden era through the 1980s into the late 1990s.

Many of Sheikh Mohammed's major stars at the time were trained by Henry Cecil and Michael Stoute, who both at that point had still to be knighted, and achieved fame under riders such as Steve Cauthen, Walter Swinburn and Pat Eddery.

Under Cecil's tutelage at Warren Place – now owned by Sheikh Mohammed and set to become a training yard for Godolphin – Oh So Sharp completed the fillies' Triple Crown in 1985, sweeping the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger to secure a place in the annals of racing.

After being acquired by Sheikh Mohammed following her victory in the 1,000 Guineas, the Clive Brittain-trained Pebbles achieved arguably even greater standing, when in the same year as Oh So Sharp's Classic hat-trick, she dazzled in the Eclipse, Champion Stakes and Breeders' Cup Turf.

The last-named race was also won in the sheikh's old colours by In The Wings, trained by another long-time ally Andre Fabre, who sent out Carnegie to win the 1994 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in maroon and white.

A few years earlier Indian Skimmer had been another mare to achieve superstar status for Sheikh Mohammed, whose outstanding British-trained colts included champion sprinter Ajdal, dual Derby hero Old Vic, brilliant miler Barathea and, most recently, globetrotter Singspiel, whose string of triumphs featured the Dubai World Cup, Japan Cup, Canadian International and Juddmonte International.

By the time Singspiel was winning those races Godolphin had already announced itself with a big bang, meaning that over the following years the maroon and white began to disappear from public view.

The last year they were regularly seen in Britain was 2007, when they were carried to success on 58 occasions, although they continued to be used in Ireland for some time after that.

Sheikh Mohammed is looking forward to seeing his daughter Sheikha Al Jalila, who accompanied her father and mother, Princess Haya, during what proved to be a hugely successful Royal Ascot for Godolphin, carrying on a family tradition.

'Commitment, dedication and love'

Sheikh Mohammed said: "My daughter Jalila is completely passionate about racing. She spends hours in the stables, happy to feed and groom. She follows the horses' work and discusses it at great length with me.

"That commitment, dedication, and real love she has for Newmarket and the people in racing means so much to me.

"I truly hope these colours bring her and her generation as many moments of joy as they have for me and the people of racing with which I have had the privilege to share them."