Godolphin try to plan in face of global crisis

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The Independent Online

For Godolphin, the Fall is the time they jump up. From autumn onwards, the big international stages, the occasions for which the Dubaian operation was born, blur into a seamless ribbon of competition. France, Australia, the United States, Japan and Hong Kong would be on the agenda in a normal year. Normality, however, has gone.

Bill Nader, senior vice-president of marketing for the New York Racing Association, said this week that he understood that the Maktoums might not be able to attend the Breeders' Cup series to be held at Belmont Park, New York, on 27 October.

The Maktoum brothers were present for the opening sessions of the Keeneland September Sales in Kentucky, but since the terrorist attacks in America they have been far less visible in the racing environment. Sheikh Mohammed is a defence minister in the United Arab Emirates and there lies his current priority.

Even those closest to him within Godolphin are not yet sure whether the Maktoums, or even the blue colours themselves, will be scooting around Belmont five weeks tomorrow. "He [Sheikh Mohammed] has got bigger things to worry about than talk to me at the moment,'' Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said yesterday. "We're carrying on as normal until we're told differently. We haven't been notified that there could be any changes. It's worrying for everyone, but no-one has given us any indication that the Breeders' Cup may not go ahead."

In private, Godolphin will perhaps be rueing their ill fortune. After a campaign which has largely been dominated by their great Ballydoyle rivals, it appeared it was their turn to catch the see-saw on the ascendant. Sakhee has come back into the top-level equation, Fantastic Light toppled Galileo on his own Irish turf and the options began to spread out for the remaining baubles.

At last, it seems an overall end-of-season strategy is emerging. Fantastic Light will go straight to America for his decider with Galileo in the Breeders' Cup Classic. It now appears that Sakhee is more likely to take in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and then the Breeders' Cup Turf.

That would leave Noverre for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot a week tomorrow, followed by the Breeders' Cup Mile. The Champion Stakes at Newmarket could be the target of Godolphin's Tobougg and Sheikh Hamdan's Nayef.

"If Sakhee got rerouted to the Breeders' Cup then we would look at the mile and a half on the turf," Crisford said. "We haven't indicated that that might happen yet, because up until now the Champion Stakes has been the race we were looking at."

It was in this afternoon's Haynes, Hanson and Clark Stakes at Newbury that Nayef's story began last year. He won it and later became winter favourite for both the 2,000 Guineas and Derby. Only recently has he returned to the level of competence we expect from the winner of this particular Newbury race.

This afternoon's mix does not, in truth, look as potent as usual. The best form on the door arguably comes from Fight Your Corner or Rumpold's half-brother, Wing Commander. Yet the race might be dominated by two colts who ran in separate divisions of a Kempton maiden earlier this month. John Gosden's Epicentre was sixth in one, while Connor (next best 2.40), from Richard Hannon's yard, won the other.

The Group Two Mill Reef Stakes is not a particularly sparkling renewal either, even though there is a previous winner at this level in the shape of Mister Cosmi. He has the form, but the potential belongs to Stravinsky's half-brother, Official Flame (3.10).

Bocelli, the champion of Singapore, is an exotic addition to the Dubai Duty Free Cup, in which a strong case can be made out for Richard Hannon's REEL BUDDY (2.10, nap). At Ayr there is a sighter for tomorrow's Ayr Gold Cup in the silver version. If Night Flight (3.30) wins there will be a scramble to get on the high-drawn horses for tomorrow.

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