U.S. officials bar Chechen leader’s horse from racing

Racing officials in two U.S. states have refused to grant a license to Ramzan Kadyrov over what his spokesman claimed were fears that the Chechen leader’s horse was “too good.”

However, it is more likely that allegations of human rights abuses repeatedly made against Kadyrov were what really stopped his horse, Sweet Ducky, from taking part in any of the races.

The horse was scheduled to race last month in Lexington, Kentucky, but the State Department had the state’s horse racing commission turn down an application for a racing license for Kadyrov, the New York Times reported.

Two months earlier New York State’s racing board also received a request from the Chechen leader but then delayed its processing after consultations with the State Department.

An unnamed New York official told the NY Times that the State Department is unlikely to “change its tune on Mr. Kadyrov,” and it was now “safe to assume he will not be racing horses in New York.”

Chechnya’s authoritarian leader, who enjoys a massive personality cult in the North Caucasus republic, attracted condemnation last month after allegedly paying Hollywood stars including Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank to attend a lavish event in the capital Grozny.

Swank later said she “deeply regretted” going to the party and sacked her manager, following criticism from human rights groups.

Human Rights Watch said it was “inappropriate” for stars to get paid to party with Kadyrov.

Action star Jean-Claude Van Damme, British violinist Vanessa Mae and singer Seal also attended.

Kadyrov, known also as an avid horse fan, started stocking up on thoroughbreds in 2008. He is now believed to have about 10 international horses, most of whom race at the Group One level, the highest in the world.

A spokesman for Kadyrov, Alvi Karimov, said the New York and Kentucky officials did not grant the license because the horse had “all the qualities necessary to win the race.”

He also said that the move was “ideological sabotage against the Chechen authorities.”

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