Sheikh Mohammed expected to miss Royal Ascot under cloud of High Court ruling

Martyn Ziegler, The Times
June 14, 2022

Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum is expected to be absent from Royal Ascot this week after last year’s revelations in a court case.

The sheikh has previously been a guest of the Queen in the royal box but is not expected to attend the meeting. Palace sources had indicated in October that he would not be invited into the royal box again.

Sheikh Mohammed, the owner of the Godolphin stable, has been a leading figure in racing for three decades but has become something of an embarrassment to the sport after a High Court judge ruled that he ordered the hacking of phones belonging to his estranged wife, Princess Haya, and her British lawyer. He was also found to have ordered the abduction of his two daughters.

Godolphin has 40 horses running at Ascot this week, including Creative Force and Naval Crown in the Platinum Jubilee stakes on Saturday.

There is uncertainty over whether the Queen will attend, and if he does it is likely to be announced by Buckingham Palace shortly before the event. She did attend Royal Ascot on day five last year but, now aged 96, she has pulled out of recent public appearances.

Ascot organisers expect 270,000 racegoers to attend across the week but have cut the capacity in some areas compared with pre-pandemic years.

The Royal Enclosure will have 1,000 fewer people permitted, while the Queen Anne and Windsor enclosures will be reduced by 4,150 and 2,000 respectively. The Royal Enclosure Gardens has been extended, however, to create more space next to the track, and an expanded Village Enclosure will be open again for the first time since 2019.

Several meetings before the pandemic involved outbreaks of anti-social behaviour, which led to Ascot organisers putting in place enhanced measures, including sniffer dogs to deter racegoers bringing drugs to the meeting. Racegoers may also be breathalysed by stewards and refused admission.

An Ascot insider told The Times: “Everyone is aware of the need to control anti-social behaviour as much as possible and we have a zero-tolerance approach to that with very visible stewarding.

“We are very hopeful that as with other race meetings since the pandemic that everyone will behave appropriately.”