Chris McGrath: Goldolphin pin St Leger hopes on Rewilding to change fortunes and stifle the cheap shots
Saturday 11 September 2010
It is not as if absolutely all their eggs are in one basket. They start the afternoon, for instance, with Saamidd, a princely young colt who annihilated his rivals at Newbury first time out by seven lengths. Yesterday, moreover, White Moonstone was promoted to favourite for the 1,000 Guineas after a runaway Group Two success. Even so, the fact is that when Rewilding goes to post at Doncaster today the stakes for Godolphin are far higher than simply winning the world's oldest Classic.
For Rewilding has the potential to stifle all but the cheapest shots at the expense of the most lavishly equipped stable since Zeus upgraded Pegasus to a constellation. Certainly he looks the class act in the Ladbrokes St Leger, but the hope is that today will only represent a start. Both pedigree and physique promise better still next year, and as such he could finally fill an excruciating void for Godolphin in the big championship races. There is even a chance that he could be fast-tracked to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, just three weeks away tomorrow, if he happened to win well today.
Not even these heady possibilities, however, do justice to the latent significance of this one officer, emerging from the countless ranks of Godolphin cavalry. For Rewilding has become the poster boy for one of Sheikh Mohammed's twin strategies to renew what had become a stagnant empire. Both these strategies, respectively in its training and breeding arms, can be condensed into one word: diversification.
Rewilding began his career with André Fabre, who has presumably been given good reasons for tolerating any erosion of his amour-propre in merely grooming young horses for an elite corps over in Newmarket. But the latter has in turn now been divided between Saeed bin Suroor and his former assistant, Mahmood al-Zarooni. Some cynics persist in the misapprehension that this is merely a cosmetic separation, but they should not deceive themselves. And, as a colt transferred from Fabre to Al-Zarooni, Rewilding can legitimately be treated as vindication for the new policy.
At the same time, of course, you might say: "Plus ça change..." Once again, Godolphin reach the Leger after a fairly barren summer at the elite level. Their worldwide operation has so far yielded four Group One wins, three of them in Germany, where competition is hardly as exacting as in those environments where commercial operators know they must establish the reputation of their future stallions. The fourth, Cutlass Bay, was still trained by Fabre when he won the Prix Ganay in the spring.
In fairness, Godolphin had an identical tally this time last year before adding a series of Group One winners in the autumn, starting with the Leger itself. Amazingly, they also won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Vale Of York, which is thought to have accelerated Al-Zarooni's promotion.
Bin Suroor, remember, trains Saamidd – and has meanwhile done such a good job in settling Poet's Voice that he might feasibly manage an impact in the Breeders' Cup Mile. But he would presumably acknowledge the merit of adding fresh talents to Godolphin's cause, even if that requires still more latitude in measuring its achievements. For while Godolphin have been falling well short of the single stable operated by Aidan O'Brien, the fact is that they might sooner be measured against all Coolmore horses, from Todd Pletcher to David Wachman.
The time is not so far away now, anyhow, when new blood of a more literal kind could refresh Sheikh Mohammed's stock. His unprecedented spree of stallion recruitment has now produced a first crop of foals for the likes of New Approach and Raven's Pass here, and Any Given Saturday, Hard Spun and Street Sense in America.
Intriguingly, albeit with the big auctions at Keeneland and Newmarket still to some, the Maktoums have definitely drawn in their horns at the yearling sales. Authorized, Teofilo and Manduro will have their first juveniles on the track next year, and soon there will be a still greater proliferation of Darley stock to be sent into training.
In concentrating this renewal of the Darley gene pool over barely 12 months – not forgetting the recruitment of Medaglia d'Oro, sire of Rachel Alexandra – Sheikh Mohammed banked on a top stallion emerging during the window of his investment. He more or less said: "I haven't a clue which of these will prove a top stallion, but you'd have to be disappointed if they all turned out to be duffers."
Since then, Sea The Stars has been able to preserve his autonomy, while Canford Cliffs, Makfi and Harbinger have been booked to Tipperary, Gloucestershire and Japan respectively. So it will be interesting to see which of all the champions retired over the past three or four years will ultimately prove the next Galileo.
In the meantime, of course, a number of established sires have been producing more than enough good runners to exonerate Darley of the more slanderous suggestions of incompetence. Rewilding himself, for instance, is by Street Cry.
If we are going to accentuate the positive, then it is arguable that even defeat might have a silver lining for Rewilding. For his biggest threat today is perhaps not the O'Brien pair, nor the Oaks winner, but a brutish slog after overnight rain. Simon Crisford, the Godolphin manager, already anticipates running Rewilding over shorter distances next year. You would not want to see a war of attrition, to blunt his class. Even if you did, though, it might at last represent a case of just one step backwards for Godolphin – and two forward.
Findlay drama steals spotlight from juveniles' rise to stardom
Whatever the facts that divide Harry Findlay and the British Horseracing Authority, there would seem to be just one, melancholy certainty. And that is that the whole business cannot fail to end in tears, for somebody.
After his public outburst against the BHA chief executive the previous day, Findlay was back at Doncaster yesterday, reprising various legally contentious allegations. The professional gambler perceives a "vendetta" against him, despite winning his appeal against a suspension for a fairly technical breach of the rules prohibiting owners from laying bets against their own horses.
Findlay was leaving the track when he spotted the BHA head of security, Paul Scotney. Both agreed they did not want "a scene" and proceeded to the weighing room, where they had a prolonged discussion. Findlay seemed somewhat subdued afterwards, but claimed that Scotney had agreed with everything he said. Scotney seemed to demur. "He would say that, wouldn't he?" he said.
These melodramas have sadly distracted attention from events on the track, notably the two devastating juveniles who now head ante post lists on next year's Classics; White Moonstone who thrashed a 66-1 shot by five lengths in the Keepmoat May Hill Stakes, while Henry Cecil acknowledged Frankel as potentially top-class after he outclassed inferiors by 13 lengths in a conditions race.
Unfortunately White Moonstone's stablemate, Farhh, had been withdrawn at the start. "It's a shame the other horse wasn't in it, because he would have learned a bit more," Cecil said. "He was never out of a canter. He has a long way to go, but at home he gives me a feeling of being better than average."
Turf Account: Chris McGrath
Captain Dancer (3.05 Chester) A long break since his last run suggests that reasons were found for his disappointing effort that day, and he warrants another chance after pulling well clear with a flourishing rival at Thirsk on his previous start. Lightly raced overall, he could yet prove better than his present rating.
Blazing Desert (4.45 Chester) Not many miles on the clock on the Flat and suggested himself more than equal to this kind of mark when second at Thirsk, coming from last as the winner dictated a steady pace and very wide on the turn, too.
One to Watch
Oldjoesaid (K A Ryan) had offered little encouragement since switching stable but that changed when tried in a tongue-tie at Doncaster this week, stuck at the rear before weaving through easily into midfield, when again meeting traffic. Well treated now, he handles autumn ground.
Where the money's going
Frankel's exciting performance at Doncaster yesterday saw Totesport introduce him at 8-1 for both the 2,000 Guineas and Derby, while they promoted White Moonstone to the same price from 20-1 for the 1,000 Guineas after her own impressive display.
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