Racing: Godolphin aim to unravel Doyen mystery

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The Independent Online

The end of the week near the end of the Flat turf season holds the promise of great pearls for the mighty Godolphin team.

The end of the week near the end of the Flat turf season holds the promise of great pearls for the mighty Godolphin team.

On Friday at Newmarket we see for the first time on the racecourse their much trumpeted two-year-old Echo Of Light. The gallops performances of the Dubai Millennium colt, we are reliably informed, have ensured the coops of Suffolk have been populated by heaving pigeons.

On Saturday, the Kempton debutante winner Fen Shui carries on in the Rockfel Stakes, while Perfectperformance and Librettist do battle in the Dewhurst. Team Dubai is even more heavily represented in the Champion Stakes, for which Naheef was supplemented, or perhaps conscripted, into the role of pacemaker on Monday. It cost £24,000, but it was only money. The Dubaian cascade of funds continued yesterday when they purchased the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runner-up, Cherry Mix, to slot into the serried ranks.

Godolphin already have Doyen and Refuse To Bend in the Champion Stakes, yet it is also arguable they have four horses in the Group One contest. Doyen has been a Dr and a Mr this season, and only Saturday's journey across the windy flatlands will tell us whether he is the monster of Ascot or the gerbil of Leopardstown. It is not an easy identity crisis to solve, especially among those closest to the colt.

Doyen has already done the hero bit. In the Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal meeting he broke Stanerra's 21-year-old track record. The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes was probably even better as he disposed of the best around by three lengths. The highest aspiration for his future opponents appeared to be genuflexion.

But then came the strange case of the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, in which Doyen managed to finish in front of his pacemaker, Millstreet, but nothing else. His Godolphin masters have searched for an excuse for that aberration, but are now willing to take theories on a postcard. There is hope, but a brittle one, for redemption on Saturday.

"The idea at the time [post Leopardstown] was to go home and start again next season, but he seems in such good form," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said yesterday. "But then he was in form before and after Ireland, so we don't want to make too many noises.

"That was a shock. We were expecting a real polished performance. Not that. It knocked us all sideways and messed up our autumn plans. He should have been our Arc horse.

"He was a horse that developed quickly over the summer and, while it looked easy, it might have taken more out of him than we thought. But we were not running him quickly. We gave him time between races.

"There are easy excuses you can make for him, but the truth is that there is nothing that stands up to close scrutiny. That race remains a bit of a mystery."

A beneficiary of Godolphin's might this year has been Frankie Dettori, who extended his lead to 14 in the jockeys' championship yesterday when Mansfield Park won at Leicester.

Kieren Fallon was not able to protect his title at the Midlands track following his fall there on Monday. The Irishman failed to pass the track doctor and must do so today if he is to resume at Lingfield. Fallon also failed to pass a photographer without incident and was involved in an altercation as he left the track.

Bago, Cherry Mix's conqueror in the Arc, will not now run in the Breeders' Cup Classic in Texas. The salve to this news was confirmation that the three-year-old will race on as a four-year-old, with journeys to Britain as part of his agenda.

Richard Edmondson has been shortlisted for the Horserace Writers' Association Racing Journalist of the Year award.