As Kentucky Derby season gets underway, a team of lawyers in Louisville and Southern California has filed a complaint with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, asking the body to bar Dubai’s ruler from participation over alleged human rights violations.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who rules Dubai and is vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, is accused of holding his 33-year-old daughter, Sheikha Latifa, in captivity, cut off from the outside world, after she attempted to escape the emirate early last year.
In a regulatory complaint filed Monday morning, lawyers Lisa Bloom of the Bloom Firm and Sam Marcosson, who teaches at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, asked the Commission to bar the sheikh “from activities associated with horse racing in the Commonwealth.”
Sheikh Mohammed owns Godolphin, a self-described “thoroughbred breeding operation and horse racing team,” which has two breeding farms in Versailles and Lexington. His filly, Flor de La Mar, is expected to run in this year’s Kentucky Oaks, on May 3.
Godolphin has run 10 horses in the Derby since 1999. Marcosson described it as “one of the largest racing operations in the world.”
“It is time to ban Sheikh Mohammed, everyone associated with him … from the Derby, the Oaks and all horse racing events in Kentucky,” Bloom wrote in a press release. “Surely as a country that believes in women’s rights and the sovereignty of the American flag that is the very least we can do.”
Bloom has been public in her appeals for Latifa’s release, and last month called for a boycott of Dubai.
Latifa is one of Sheikh Mohammed’s 30 children. She unsuccessfully attempted to escape her restricted life in Dubai at age 16 before trying to claim political asylum in the United States last year, according to the complaint. Reports indicate that Indian and Emirati forces intercepted her U.S.-flagged yacht in international waters, a move Marcosson described as an affront to American sovereignty.
“Our goal is to make sure that as much attention is brought to this situation as possible, and more importantly, to bar Sheikh Mohammad from his passion, which is his involvement in horse racing here in Kentucky and elsewhere,” Marcosson said.