Talking Horses: Racing's rulers silent over switch of Princess Haya horse

Racing’s powerful figures responded with silence on Sunday when questions were asked about how a valuable racehorse was transferred recently from the ownership of Princess Haya to that of Godolphin, the racing vehicle of her former husband, Sheikh Mohammed, from whom she fled last year seeking protection from the English courts.

Terebellum is a valuable breeding prospect and expected to try her luck next in a Group One race after proving her class by winning the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday, her jockey, Frankie Dettori, wore the royal blue of Godolphin.

That was a change from last year, when Terebellum carried Princess Haya’s green and black silks, including when successful in a quality race at Deauville. But when the entries for the Newmarket race were published last week, Terebellum was listed as owned by Godolphin.

Asked to explain that, Godolphin’s managing director, Hugh Anderson, replied: “No comment”. More surprisingly, the British Horseracing Authority, which regulates the sport, remained wary. Asked if it had checked with Princess Haya that she consented to the transfer, a spokesman responded: “It is the BHA’s position currently not to comment on this.” He declined to explain why.

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The situation echoes events of last summer, when, in the weeks before Princess Haya applied to the high court for a non-molestation order against the sheikh, several horses were swapped from her ownership to his and then back again. As was noted at the time in Private Eye, Promissory was taken out of Princess Haya’s ownership on 29 June and returned to her from Godolphin four days later, winning at Doncaster in her green colours just two days after that.

Turgenev, Emblazoned, Kimblewick and Duneflower were all also switched out of Princess Haya’s ownership in the early days of July and into the Godolphin camp, only to be switched back later. Of the 16 horses that ran for her in Britain last summer, three went to the sales at the end of the year. Terebellum is the first of the remainder to race since the court ruling.

Terebellum, ridden by Frankie Dettori, wins the Dahlia Fillies’ Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

Terebellum, ridden by Frankie Dettori, wins the Dahlia Fillies’ Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday. Photograph: Getty Images

The couple were in headlines around the world in March after a 34-page fact-finding ruling by Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division of the high court, which included findings that Sheikh Mohammed had orchestrated the abductions of two of his children, one from the streets of Cambridge. It was found that he had subjected Princess Haya to a campaign of intimidation, including an attempt to have her abducted by helicopter.

The findings were made on the civil standard, requiring only they be proved as more probable than not. Sheikh Mohammed countered at the time with a statement: “As a head of government, I was not able to participate in the court’s fact-finding process. This has resulted in the release of a ‘fact-finding’ judgment which inevitably tells only one side of the story.”