Barzalona has the world at his feet for Godolphin


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The Independent Online

In the event, it was not Chantal Sutherland who would make the most insistent stand on behalf of the rights of the female. Entering the tunnel between the saddling ring and paddock, owners and trainers escorting runners in the world's richest race suddenly found themselves obliged to stand and wait on the clarion instructions of Sheikh Mohammed's four-year-old daughter, Al Jalila. Her mortified mother, Princess Haya, hastened back to remonstrate; but the little sheikha had achieved her purpose and, to general amusement, was able to hurtle gaily down the vacated chute beneath the grandstand. It would prove only the prelude to a race of similarly unfettered celebration.

For her example was soon matched, in both charm and self-assurance, by another impossibly precocious character. In his first major assignment since formally entering the sheikh's service, Mickael Barzalona confirmed himself the most flamboyant newcomer among the European riding elite since Frankie Dettori – the man to whom, unmistakably, he has become heir apparent. Barzalona's success on Monterosso on Saturday night means that he has now added the richest prize on the Turf, the Dubai World Cup, to its most famous one, the Derby – and he is still only 20.

Barzalona was not even born when Dettori made his own breakthrough. As such, the senior rider will perhaps feel that his stature at Godolphin can be sustained – for the time being, at least – by sheer experience. In his new role alongside Dettori, Barzalona will be testing his raw, instinctive brilliance against a dazing variety of tracks in Britain. But this insouciant youth dealt with the most bewildering of them all, last June, by breaking every Epsom convention. Still last on the descent to Tattenham Corner, Pour Moi was produced so unerringly to lead on the post that Barzalona was already swaying upright in the irons and saluting the stands.

The censure of conservatives that day did not prevent him reprising the same celebrations through the final 100 yards on Saturday. This time, in fairness, the issue was already clear-cut. Sutherland's mount, Game On Dude, had challenged only briefly on the outside and Monterosso was still going strongly when his stablemate, Capponi, forced So You Think to crack on the home turn. Though Planteur kept on well from off the pace, excelling for Marco Botti, Barzalona knew that he only had to run down Capponi in the straight. An unlucky third in last year's race, Monterosso improved for his only start since, last month, to run out a decisive and deserving winner.

Capponi was ridden by Ahmed Ajtebi – Dettori was marooned on Prince Bishop, back in seventh – and so crowned a night of intense patriotic gratification. For both first and second were saddled by Mahmood Al Zarooni, whose promotion has yielded spectacular dividends over the past two years.

Simon Crisford, the Godolphin manager, had made it plain that Dettori should assume no automatic rights over Barzalona and the stable's other new recruit, Silvestre de Sousa; but they have worked together long enough for both to know the Italian's role has merely changed, rather than run its course.

Even so, on the night that Richard Hills ended a long career in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan, there was no mistaking a changing of the guard. "Mickael's a great talent," Crisford said. "He has so much finesse. He can celebrate like that because he knows where the winning line is, and just what's going on around him. We're looking forward immensely to him riding for us in Europe. But this is our first World Cup since Electrocutionist [in 2006] and, though it's obviously an incredibly hard race to win, it's our home territory and it's really important that we can be competitive. Sheikh Mohammed has been very involved, personally, with the training and programme of these horses. So it's absolutely fantastic, the way it has come together."

Crisford's emphasis on the team values of Godolphin was corroborated by Mark Johnston, who nowadays brings along so many of its potential stock. Both first and second had begun their careers in Middleham. "I can't take any credit for this," Johnston said. "But I'm part of a system and it is very important to me that the system works. I wouldn't have all those horses if things like this didn't happen occasionally."

Dettori did win two other races on the card, but nobody should be deceived that it was a perfect night for the hosts. Godolphin had suffered a harrowing loss when Fox Hunt broke down entering on the first lap of the inaugural Dubai Gold Cup. The other runners were halted around halfway, and the race rescheduled after the World Cup. It may only have been a catastrophic coincidence that Bronze Cannon and Grand Vent would also proceed to break down fatally; but it would surely be prudent to reconsider the wisdom of racing stayers, in particular, on such firm ground.

In other respects, the card amply succeeded in its cosmopolitan purpose. There were lucrative wins for France, Australia and Britain respectively, through Cirrus Des Aigles, Ortensia and the dazzling Cityscape. The latter was a first Group winner of any kind for a flourishing young rider in James Doyle, but a veteran also got a piece of the action when Kieren Fallon steered home Krypton Factor for Bahrain.

The defining image, however, was perhaps the warm congratulation extended by the Sheikh to Aidan O'Brien, who saddled Daddy Long Legs to an impressive success in the UAE Derby. Between them, the Maktoums and O'Brien's patrons at Coolmore have succeeded in finding an olive branch in this desert – albeit the irony would be lost on nobody if Daddy Long Legs goes on to add the Kentucky Derby to a rehearsal here, something Sheikh Mohammed has yearned to do for years.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Able Master (4.15 Redcar)

Has slipped down the weights after disappointing spell and can make a fresh start for his new trainer.

Next best: Solis (2.30 Kelso)

Goes well fresh and looks favourably treated on his return.

One to watch: Duke's Art (David Pipe) just gave the winner too much of a start at Taunton the other day.

Where the money went: Chris McGrath tipped the 20-1 winner of the Dubai World Cup, Monterosso, on Saturday.