Kentucky Derby Controversy

Former UN Ambassador Kelly Craft is Mute on Human Rights Issue Unraveling in KY

With an international controversy swirling days before the Kentucky Derby, Kentuckian and the former United Nations ambassador Kelly Craft is mute as her brother, who is the executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission refuses to take action.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, who owns Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality, will be allowed to race on Saturday despite allegations of human rights violations.

“In consultation with counsel, and according to Kentucky regulations, the KHRC has determined the complaint does not articulate a violation of KHRC regulations,” said Marc Guilfoil, the commission’s executive director, and Craft’s brother.

The decision to allow the sheik to race comes after new complaints were filed by lawyers with the University of Louisville against Sheikh Mohammed this week to bar him and his horse from the high stakes race after allegations the Sheik is holding his daughter, Princess Latifa hostage in Dubai after she tried to escape in 2018. A second daughter, Princess Shamsa tried to escape the family’s estate in England in 2000 – she was found a month later in Cambridge, England, drugged and flown back to Dubai, according to the BBC. She hasn’t been seen since. 

A judge in England ruled last year that Sheik Mohammed orchestrated both abductions. 

Last week the United Nations called on the UAE to provide “concrete” proof that Princess Latifa Al Maktoum is alive. In a statement issued in Geneva last week, UN human rights experts also said she should be released “urgently,” according to a report from the BBC.

This is not the first time the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has heard complaints against Sheik Mohammed for this very matter. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader lawyers from the UofL Human Rights Advocacy Project issued the same complaint in 2019, which was dismissed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. 

Former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft, who splits her time between Kentucky and Oklahoma, has been touring the state after her term as ambassador concluded with the end of the Trump administration in January. 

Craft is a potential candidate for governor in 2023, and she has been playing up her bonafides in recent speeches as an international leader with the UN and human rights advocate. However, Craft, who on Friday tweeted about a stampede in Israel, has not talked about, tweeted, or taken any action on this human rights issue unraveling before the nation the day before the Kentucky Derby. Craft often tweets about United Nations issues, recent examples also include criticizing Iran’s human rights record and legislation in Taiwan. 

There is no record of Craft discussing the issue of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s alleged kidnapping of his daughters during her tenure as UN ambassador, despite the Sheik spending lots of time in Kentucky at his Godolphin Racing operation at Jonabell Farm near Lexington’s Bluegrass Field. In December 2019, Craft brought the United Nations Security Council to Lexington and Frankfort, Kentucky.

Essential Quality is currently a 2-1 favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.