To many who depicted Godolphin as lost in the desert, every new hope was a mirage.
Some of the most precious thoroughbreds on the planet seemed to toil meanly towards some unchanging, barren horizon. In the merciless light, there was nowhere to hide. Not for the first time, however, the Maktoums knew that the solution – a latent wealth of resources – was maturing below.
As a result, the coronation of Delegator as champion sprinter at Newmarket today would represent only one drill into this new seam of success. For Godolphin, something still more important is now within reach.
During the lean years, critics were often reproved for their parochialism. This, they were reminded, was a global venture and there was limited pertinence to the fact, say, that Godolphin could not muster a single Group One prize in Britain in 2006; or only one in both 2008 and 2009. But while the stable's management and owners always retained a commendable dignity, these protests gave them a rather defensive air. The reality was transparent not in their words, but their deeds – which amounted to a wholesome admission that something had to change.
Sheikh Mohammed understands that loyalty and complacency are very different things. Even within the camp, long united by his charisma and adventure, there were tensions. Those responsible for his breeding empire traced the problem to the supervision of the racehorses; and vice versa. "The Boss" responded by introducing fresh blood to both wings.
He incorporated no less a master than André Fabre into the training structure, and promoted Saeed Bin Suroor's assistant, Mahmood al-Zarooni, to run a separate yard. Rewilding, groomed by Fabre in France and switched to Zarooni last May, is the first big dividend. Having already beaten So You Think at Royal Ascot, he will again revive all those great showdowns with Ballydoyle when he meets St Nicholas Abbey in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes a fortnight today. With Blue Bunting, moreover, Zarooni has ended a Dubai drought in the first British Classics extending back to 2002.
Less obviously, but no less significantly, the sheikh resolved to add new genes to the equine talent pool. It proved a breathtaking enterprise and, in honesty, sometimes had a fairly scattergun air. Over a period of 18 months or so, just about every top-class colt that became available, either side of the Atlantic, was procured for Darley Stud. There are no guarantees, of course, in breeding. In acquiring so many cards, however, the sheikh would be dashed unlucky not to find at least one ace in there somewhere. And a little haste was excusable, when such patience would still be required before anyone could find out.
Which is why even Delegator, even Rewilding, will not necessarily be the most exciting horses at Godolphin just now. Over the coming weeks, several of these new stallions will at last be testing the water on the racecourse. Yesterday, for instance, Zarooni gave debuts at Newmarket to colts by Street Sense, the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner to follow up in the Kentucky Derby, and Any Given Saturday, another of the leading three-year-olds of 2007.
Others coming on stream include Hard Spun, who finished second to Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby; and, from the European arm, Teofilo and Authorized. Next year, moreover, the first crops of New Approach and Raven's Pass will be joining the fray.
As such, it seems safe to say that Godolphin are raising the siege. And morale will soar if Delegator can promote his future role on the sponsor's farm in the Darley July Cup. Much, however, depends on the weather. His aversion to soft ground is such that he was scratched as favourite on the morning of the Golden Jubilee Stakes, and it would be gratifying to see that discretion rewarded by drying conditions today.
Certainly, his new vocation as a sprinter makes him eligible to simplify an otherwise perplexing race with sheer class. In his younger days, remember, he was beaten only by Sea The Stars in the 2,000 Guineas, and quickened brilliantly in the St James's Palace Stakes, being just worn down by a neck. His career since joining Godolphin has been full of frustrations and setbacks, but speed has long been his forte and he looked primed for overdue fulfilment when finally dropped to this trip at York in May. He coasted past a field of sprint veterans more or less at his leisure, in the process confirming that he is especially effective when fresh. Sitting out Ascot, to that extent, is by no means a bad thing.
Should the going blunt his acceleration, it is hard to envisage anything other than a frantic, flat-out finish. If Delegator's draw proves an issue, which is possible, then give some consideration at 33-1 to Libranno, unbeaten in two starts over this course. This looks the right trip for Dream Ahead, who could well bounce back in soft ground, while Amico Fritz is over-priced on his performance from a bad draw at Ascot.
All things being equal, however, Delegator can help both his trainer and jockey in trying to reiterate their seniority at Godolphin. Suroor must now compete with Zarooni for the pick of these new stallion crops, while Frankie Dettori, fresh from a couple of fairly embarrassing suspensions, knows that a potential heir has now been identified in Mickaël Barzalona. But that is itself a symbol of renewal; of the new desert bloom.
Queally times run perfectly to steal Falmouth for Cecil
Few would ever begrudge Sir Henry Cecil a Group One winner, least of all on his home racecourse, but the fact remains that the success of Timepiece in the Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes yesterday was little short of daylight robbery. In fairness, Christophe Lemaire has proved himself more adept than many indigenous riders over the Rowley Mile, but here on the July Course the Frenchman was guilty of setting the heavily backed favourite, Sahpresa, too much to do. In contrast Tom Queally was always shadowing the slow pace set by the outsider, Masaya. Though Sahpresa managed to pass the rest of the field, as Timepiece struck for home, the effort of doing so told and she fell just over a length short.
Timepiece had a big reputation in her youth but has lost many admirers since, again hinting at temperament as she wandered under pressure here. Cecil tried to suppress his bemusement, but admitted her alternative had been a Listed race at Pontefract. "She hacked along as though it was a bit of work," Queally said. "The beauty of it was I was able to keep her on the bridle so long."
There was also a surprise in the other big race, the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cherry Hinton Stakes – won by a filly, in Gamilati, previously beaten in two maidens. My Propellor, who had won one by the extraordinary margin of 17 lengths, was last off the bridle but went rapidly into reverse once doing so. Shumoos was meanwhile making heavy weather of her challenge up the centre, and was just being overhauled by Russelliana when Gamilati came bounding along the stands' rail to win.
Coral and Paddy Power went 20-1 that she can emulate her stablemate Blue Bunting in the 1,000 Guineas next year. Mahmood Al Zarooni, her trainer, has a more immediate objective in the Lowther Stakes at York.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Quite Sparky (3.55 York)
Beat stronger field in good style tried in a visor last time, would not mind rain and can exploit a better draw.
King Of Jazz (2.55 Newmarket)
Saw off all bar the subsequent Britannia winner when quickening at Haydock last time.
One To Watch
Dominium (Jeremy Gask) closed nicely when running into heavy traffic at Kempton on Wednesday.
Where The Money's Going
Dream Ahead is 8-1 from 10-1 with Totesport for the Darley July Cup at Newmarket today.Reuse content