Dubai deputy ruler Sheikh Hamdan, prominent horse racing figure, dies

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai's deputy ruler and for decades one of the most influential figures in international horseracing, has died, Dubai's ruler said on Wednesday.

Sheikh Hamdan, 75, was the brother of Dubai's current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. He had been unwell for months and had surgery abroad in October.

Sheikh Hamdan established his first racing stable, Shadwell Racing, in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and built it into a racing empire with his horses in blue and white silks winning major international races. He owned eight stud farms worldwide, according to local media.

Last June, jockey Jim Crowley completed a treble on the opening day of Royal Ascot with Sheikh Hamdan's Battaash, Motakhayyel and Nazeer.

Dubai's ruler bid farewell to "my brother, my support, my lifelong friend".

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, tweeted: "Today we lost one of the UAE's faithful men after a life rich with giving and true patriotic work."

Funeral prayers for Sheikh Hamdan, who was also the UAE's long-serving finance minister, will be restricted to family members due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dubai Media Office said.

Dubai announced 10 days of mourning with flags to be flown at half-mast and a closure of government institutions in the emirate for three days as of Thursday.

In 2008, Dubai's ruler established the line of succession in the emirate by naming his son Hamdan, 38, as crown prince. His other son Maktoum is also a deputy ruler of Dubai.

Sheikh Hamdan had been the UAE's finance minister since 1971. The UAE also has a minister of state for financial affairs, Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, who has held the post since 2008.

The emirate, part of the UAE federation, is the Middle East's business, trade and tourism hub.

(Writing by Lisa Barrington and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Kim Coghill, Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)