Crackerjack King can advertise the value of Italian form in cosmopolitan Eclipse
Import can capitalise on opponents' flaws to take Sandown showcase on his British debut
Somehow Godolphin always seems to invite a rush to judgement. But its managers, however vexed, know not to expect too much sympathy. Most obviously because few stables, if any, have been so fabulously resourced in the Turf's long history; but also because Sheikh Mohammed himself always intended for Godolphin to be treated differently.
Racing stables aren't usually set up with such a self-conscious air of mission. Sure enough, in its spectacular early years, the vision and adventure of Godolphin were duly celebrated. Its founding precepts together suggested a wholesome dread of complacency. Conservatives throughout the sport felt obliged to reconsider their perspectives. You should cause no offence, then, in asking the sheikh how his elite stable failed to sustain the glory of its initial, pioneering phase.
As one who has always cherished a reputation for dynamism, the ruler of Dubai has made significant changes – and so, implicitly, recognised the validity of some criticism. He promoted Saeed Bin Suroor's assistant, Mahmood Al Zarooni, to supervise his own yard; and also introduced fresh blood to a stagnant breeding operation. Several young stallion prospects were added to the roster, on either side of the Atlantic, and already one of them – the 2008 Derby winner, New Approach – is shaping up as something out of the ordinary, with no fewer than three members of his first crop winning races at Royal Ascot.
And that can only be good for the sport. For if Godolphin is not operating effectively, then a substantial proportion of the world's most valuable bloodstock will not be fulfilling its potential. Most neutrals, therefore, will surely be united at Sandown today in the hope that Farhh can consolidate his emergence as an overdue new force for Bin Suroor.
In the absence of So You Think, denied his swansong by lameness, Farhh finds himself favourite for the Coral Eclipse Stakes. Though he lost his unbeaten record, this colt's performance when third in the Prince of Wales's Stakes contributed to an encouraging Ascot for Godolphin. Fast-tracked to Group One level on only his fourth career start, he missed the break and was badly hampered when closing through the straight. Whether or not he might have reeled in So You Think, like Rewilding in the same race the previous year, we can now never know. You can only hope that Godolphin have better luck with Farhh than they did with Rewilding, who broke down so horribly on his next start.
It is difficult, however, to be confident that Farhh will be equal to new expectation today. For one thing, the consecutive thrusts for home of Carlton House and then So You Think seemed to draw several of their pursuers forward in the closing stages. Far more importantly, however, Farrh has never been asked to contest two races so close to each other. While he has apparently never suffered a major problem, his overall profile is strongly suggestive of fragility. Having previously run in a maiden and two handicaps, his Ascot experience was surely his most demanding yet. And here he is, just 17 days later, being asked to raise his game anew over perhaps the stiffest finish to any Group One race.
For all the goodwill behind Frankie Dettori, then, few punters will be tempted by fairly short odds about Farhh. Nor will many be tempted by Al Zarooni's runner, Monterosso, even though he was last seen making off with the most valuable prize on the planet. On ratings, the Dubai World Cup winner has little to find, but he has yet to reach the same level on turf and is also entitled to need the run after a three-month absence since.
Everyone would have loved to see Frankel today, but his owner is represented by two admirable older horses. Cityscape was another impressive winner at Meydan, but must prove his stamina for a 10th furlong up the hill. There are no such concerns about the 2010 winner, Twice Over, who is readily indulged a couple of defeats back in the spring and retains feasible claims for a fifth Group One success.
Nathaniel, however, missed his prep race and surely has the defence of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, over a more suitable trip and now just a fortnight away, as his main priority. And Bonfire requires some generous assumptions in his favour to be absolved a tame run in the Derby, leaving Cogito as much the better value of the three-year-olds at 40-1.
At 11-1, however, the bet is Crackerjack King. Making his first start for the excellent Marco Botti, this very well-bred colt developed into one of the best Italian performers of recent years while in the care of his new trainer's brother, Stefano. Beaten once in his life, when failing to run his race in the Prix du Jockey-Club last year, Crackerjack King had previously annihilated an Italian Derby field that included the subsequent Arc winner, Danedream, in third. He bade farewell to Italy with an emphatic Group One win from Afsare, a winner at Sandown yesterday, in May and Falbrav, the 2003 Eclipse winner, is only one of several champions over the years to reprove parochial prejudice against the substance of Italian form.
Botti, moreover, is a young trainer going places. If he has a Group One colt in his care, you are pretty well guaranteed that he is going to win Group One races. It sounds simple, but it doesn't always seem to work out that way.
Chris McGrath's nap
Elusivity (2.05 Sandown)
Summer Dance (2.30 Beverley)
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