Sakhee, who failed by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Classic in New York on Saturday, will stay in training next season in an attempt to bring the prize back from America next year. The decision by Godolphin opens up the distant but fascinating prospect of a rematch with Tiznow, the winner of the Classic for the last two years, who will also remain in training next season.
Sakhee is due to fly to Dubai from the United States in the next few days, and will spend the winter at Godolphin's headquarters in the Gulf as he prepares for an attempt to win the Dubai World Cup on 23 March. Like the Classic, the race in Dubai is run over 10 furlongs on dirt, and the Arc winner seems sure to be a warm favourite, having run so well on Saturday in his first outing on the surface.
The decision to keep Sakhee in training at five is in marked contrast to the immediate retirement to stud of Galileo, this year's Derby winner, after his disappointing performance in the Classic. An instant, one-way ticket to the paddocks, for fear that defeat will decrease a potential stallion's value, has been almost a matter of course for most big-race winners for much of the last 25 years, but Godolphin was richly rewarded for perseverance when Fantastic Light, another five-year-old, won the Breeders' Cup Turf on Saturday.
Sakhee, who was off the track for almost a year after running third in last season's Eclipse, is lightly-raced and probably still improving, and must stand every chance of increasing his status and value still further next year.
Godolphin is now starting to wind down its operation and prepare for next year, and many of its horses have already started to congregate in Dubai. The process of replenishing the squad has also begun, and Grandera yesterday became the latest recruit to the team. James Fanshawe's three-year-old was placed in three Group One events – the French Derby, the Eclipse and the International Stakes – over the summer, and won the Arc Trial at Newbury.
Godolphin's nemesis for much of the summer has been Aidan O'Brien, and the master of Ballydoyle is certainly not easing down as he attempts to extend his monopoly of Europe's Group One races for juvenile colts. O'Brien has no fewer than nine entries for the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud on Saturday, including Castle Gandolfo, the runner-up in Saturday's Racing Post Trophy, and Landseer, who was touched off by Rock Of Gibraltar in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
However, his most likely representatives are thought to be Sholokhov, who won at Group One level in Italy last time out, and Mutinyonthebounty, who won the Group Two Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot last month.
The new season at Cheltenham got off to a sticky start for punters yesterday, when In Contrast, the 4-9 favourite for the maiden hurdle which opened the card, was beaten by Castleshane, a 20-1 chance. Punters who had delved far enough into the winner's form, though, would have discovered that he was thought worthy of a run in Grade Two company at Aintree in the spring, and Steve Gollings, his trainer, is confident that he will win again if he is allowed to run from the front.
There was an odds-on loser in the second race too, as St Pirran, who looked an excellent recruit to chasing when winning at Exeter last week, blundered and unseated Timmy Murphy at the seventh fence in the novice chase. This left Seebald, the second-favourite in the field of three, with a straightforward task which became even easier when the remaining runner, Your Punishment, fell two out.
Seebald is owned by the footballers Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman, who have already enjoyed success with several horses trained by Martin Pipe, although they recently lost Major Lando, who was fatally injured in a race at Chepstow.
Both players were preparing for matches in the Champions League yesterday, and the winner was led in by Fowler's father, Robbie snr. "Ever since I was a kid watching Grandstand," he said, "it's always been a dream to be standing in this winner's enclosure after leading in a winner."
Forecast showers threaten to put tomorrow's turf card at Lingfield in jeopardy. An inspection is being held at the Surrey track at 8.30am today. The chance of racing on the round course is slim, but the straight may just be raceable.Reuse content