A watershed weekend looms for Godolphin after the most disappointing summer in the Dubai team's 10-year existence.
A raison d'être for Godolphin is to season juveniles in the Emirates and then send them streaming forth to collect Classics. This season a knot was tied in the pipeline. Not a single worthy has emerged from the pool of choicely bred and expensively purchased young horses.
"A thing that's been of concern is that we haven't had a three-year-old colt come through the system," Simon Crisford, racing manager for Godolphin, said yesterday. "In our situation we ought to be producing three-year-olds every season. Last year we had Moon Ballad and the filly, Kazzia, who won the [1,000] Guineas and the Oaks. This year we've had nothing to run up the mast. That left a gaping hole in the team."
The beauty of Godolphin is that they are a considerable army. One regiment may have capitulated, but another now emerges through the smoke as the older horses bearing the royal blue compete across Europe and North America.
In these islands, Dubai Destination attempts to recover winning form in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday. Around 24 hours later, Mamool advertises his Melbourne Cup credentials in the Preis Von Europa at Cologne. Belmont Park's Super Saturday meeting in New York has attracted two further marquee names in Moon Ballad, a contestant in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, while Sulamani is regarded the best of them all in the Turf Classic. "The big battalions are in play," Crisford said.
"This weekend is important because it's the first big checkpoint for us towards the massive races around the globe at the end of the year, the Breeders' Cup, Melbourne Cup etc. We're looking for clues, to get encouragement for the next step.
"Our best chance is Sulamani. We're very positive about his chances because the horse is doing extremely well. We think we've done the right thing opting for the Turf Classic, as opposed to the Arc, prior to his Breeders' Cup [Turf]. It's an easier race, track conditions are ideal, it's a small field and the timing is right. Everything stacks up in his favour."
Sulamani has stayed in the United States since his victory in the Arlington Million and is also likely to remain in traing next year, as is Moon Ballad. The latter has been singularly disappointing since he came over clothed in ermine from the Dubai World Cup.
"He's had a frustrating campaign in Europe, but we know his preferred surface is dirt and so we felt the Jockey Club Gold Cup was the right prep race for him - if you can call it a prep," Crisford said. "It's a championship contest in its own right.
"He's travelled very well, stepped out on the track at Belmont yesterday and, hopefully, he can run a really good race. But he's running against Mineshaft, who is probably the best horse in North America, as well as Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. What will work in Moon Ballad's favour is the small field, the track and the fact that he seems to be going the right way at the moment."
Dubai Destination, too, is reported in the pink and ready to distance the memory of his lacklustre effort in the Prix Jacques Le Marois. "His run at Deauville was disappointing," Crisford said. "The ground was slightly against him and he was a bit quiet afterwards. He had a couple of weeks off after the race and we took it easy with him. Right now, Saeed [Bin Suroor, the trainer] and the team are very happy with him.
"We are hoping for a big result on both sides of the Atlantic. The competition is very, very tough, so we are just hoping that the horses run really well and point themselves towards the end of the season."
Racing in brief: Double for Dettori
* Frankie Dettori warmed up for a challenging weekend with a double at Goodwood yesterday on John Gosden's Tip The Dip, a son of his Derby winner Benny The Dip, and Godolphin's Imtiyaz in the Foundation Stakes.
* Sir Michael Stoute's South Atlantic has been well supported for Saturday's Tote Trifecta Handicap at Ascot and now heads the market at a top-priced 7-1 (from 10-1) with Ladbrokes and William Hill.Reuse content