Racing: Cautious route to Kentucky may suit Discreet Cat

Though the richest race meeting of all time was a dazzling culmination of many dreams, it was only a beginning. David Junior, who won more than any British horse in history, was Brian Meehan's very first runner from Manton. Heart's Cry, the Japanese horse who beat Ouija Board, will run over the new course at Ascot this summer. And not even Electrocutionist, who won his stable a fifth Dubai World Cup, could open up more bewitching horizons for Godolphin than the magnificent performance of Discreet Cat.

Both were among the horses recruited by Godolphin to plug holes that began to appear beneath the waterline last summer. Shamardal and Dubawi had been retired, and no obvious successors were emerging from a sluggish juvenile team.

No final judgement can be passed on those horses until the more backward ones come out of the woodwork. But the Godolphin team's own, decisive response in the autumn acknowledged an urgent need for fresh blood. The success of Electrocutionist and Discreet Cat at Nad al Sheba on Saturday delivered an instant £3m dividend, and a priceless sense that the ship is back on an even keel.

In a way, the stable has gone back to basics. Its original pioneers were assembled as an élite corps of proven runners. Perhaps what happened on Saturday will confirm that it is easier to let others sort out the wheat from the chaff on its behalf.

There are those who profess some kind of peculiar moral distress over Godolphin's acquisition of horses from other yards. That attitude is not merely squeamish. It is childish, sentimental and downright ignorant.

Funnily enough, you never hear even a whisper of indignation over the voracious trade in young jumpers. The biggest National Hunt owners compete greedily for French hurdlers and Irish point-to-pointers. And, lest we forget, no horse is ever bought without being sold. The owners of David Junior and Sir Percy resisted enormous offers during the winter. Plainly their interest in the sport is not merely commercial, nor even pragmatic. But there are a lot of smaller operators - owners, breeders and trainers alike - heavily indebted to Godolphin.

The grass roots of the Turf are nourished not by fantasists, but by such professionals, governed by precisely the same commercial imperatives as Coolmore Stud itself. Only the Maktoums can afford immunity, but it is wrong to expect them to suspend absolutely every business principle as a result. Godolphin are perfectly within their rights to exploit their strength in an open marketplace. And their endeavours with the horses they recruit from other yards mean that the public wins too.

No stable has ever been more adventurous. When a top runner joins Godolphin, the objective expectation should not only be that the horse will be handled with dexterity - witness the way mature specimens in Swain, Daylami and Fantastic Light flourished under Saeed bin Suroor - but also that his talents will be deployed with riveting bravado.

Would Electrocutionist ever have been risked on dirt for any other stable? The chances are that he is indeed a turf horse. He was off the bridle almost throughout on Saturday, and only his generosity and class got him home.

Paradoxically, however, it is precisely the same instinct for adventure that casts a delicious dread over the next move for Discreet Cat. Sheikh Mohammed has made his craving for the Kentucky Derby too plain for many to believe that he might, just this once, consider discretion to be the better part of valour.

This race, above all others, could wreck this colt as soon as make him. It presents a savage test of stamina and maturity, and Discreet Cat has not come off the bridle in three starts. His physique remains adolescent. As a May foal, walking behind the beefy Chilean runner in the parade ring, he looked positively delicate. With that rival failing to run his race, moreover, the strict form is only a foundation.

Discreet Cat has as much charisma as any horse in the stable since Dubai Millennium, but if he does stay 10 furlongs at the top level then it would be kindest to postpone his first trip to Churchill Downs to November, for the Breeders' Cup Classic. On the way he could pick off exhausted Triple Crown horses in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, and he could even start off in its second leg, the Preakness Stakes - over a shorter trip, just a fortnight after the Derby principals have slugged it out in Louisville.

But it is hard to see his owner favouring prudence and caution over adventure and ambition. As a true horseman, he will abide with the stable's dictum to see how Discreet Cat has taken his race before making any decisions. As a sportsman, however, he has probably made up his mind already.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Wise Owl (Kempton 4.40)

NB: Indian Edge

(Wolverhampton 5.00)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Administrator

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sunroom / Conservatory / Extension Designers

£16000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Assistant

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the count...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence