Godolphin plan to share new firsts among equals
It seems that one of the defining tenets of Godolphin is quietly being abandoned. Last year, its overseers seemed pleasantly surprised to win the 1,000 Guineas with Blue Bunting, who had not joined the usual winter exodus to Dubai following a minor injury. This time round, two rather more obvious candidates for the same race – Lyric Of Light and Discourse – are likewise being prepared in Newmarket. It turns out that the Al Quoz media morning, an institution of Dubai World Cup week, was not staged this year for the very good reason that Godolphin's best prospects are 3,500 miles away.
With trusted but anonymous lieutenants supervising perhaps two-thirds of the combined resources of Saeed Bin Suroor and Mahmood Al Zarooni, Godolphin will even be represented on the opening card of the domestic campaign, at Doncaster tomorrow.
Understandably, nobody here acknowledges any seismic shift in policy. After all, a third filly had been on course for the Guineas until Gamilati suffered an injury a few days ago – and she had raced twice at the Carnival here. In the operation's early years, moreover, Godolphin horses not only proved capable of winning Classics "off the plane", but seemed to import tangible benefits from the desert sun. Many different factors may account for a subsequent decline in their Guineas record, and a trend of prolific success later in the season. But only that initial history – and it is now 20 years since Sheikh Mohammed first experimented in wintering horses in his homeland – firmly disproves a theory that the flowering of some horses might actually be retarded by migration.
That view, clearly, is inimical to the powerful symbolism behind the stable's genesis. Simon Crisford, its manager, yesterday duly insisted that individual circumstances had determined which horses stayed in Newmarket, while also conceding that Al Quoz nowadays housed only the Carnival team, "plus a few others we think would benefit from a winter in the sun".
"Lyric Of Light did not need to race out here, or be trained out here," Crisford explained. "She has plenty of experience, she's a course-and-distance winner at Newmarket, so she was an obvious one to leave behind. Discourse had a niggling problem after her second race, which kept her off the track, and we left her there because of that."
It is no embarrassment, of course, for the sheikh to continue his dynamic response to the stagnation that threatened his Turf empire. His promotion of Al Zarooni has worked out splendidly – yielding Blue Bunting herself, among others – and now he has likewise diversified his riding personnel. Frankie Dettori, now 41, is joined by Mickael Barzalona, barely half his age, and Silvestre de Sousa, a later developer who duly remains short of pertinent experience.
While there is ample to keep them busy – each trainer will have a core of around 150 horses – Dettori can make no assumptions about his rights as senior rider. Crisford indicated Barzalona or De Sousa might well keep the mount, if happening to win a Classic trial. "That could happen," he said. "All these guys are going to share the rides. It's not like there's going to be a pecking order, there's no second jockey, third jockey. I think we'll decide who suits which horse. Frankie is absolutely relaxed about it. He's the greatest jockey in the world, as hungry as ever, and still keen to ride for a good number of years yet. But having some younger jockeys underneath him suits our purpose. With the number of horses we have, we need this talent to support him. And he will do everything he can to help them."
Most of the British circuit is unknown to Barzalona but Crisford recalled the success ultimately enjoyed by Kerrin McEvoy, Dettori's deputy for four years until returning to Australia in 2008. "Mickael has wonderful finesse and raw talent and, hopefully, he'll be sitting on horses good enough for that to shine through," he said. "He's going to have to learn. But it's not the first time we've done this sort of thing. Kerrin became a great ambassador. English racing benefits enormously from these international jockeys coming in. On our team we have an Italian, a Brazilian, and a Frenchman – as well as an Arabian jockey [Ahmed Ajtebi]. One day we'll have an Englishman as well, but all this is good for racing in England."
On the day Coolmore mourned the loss of Montjeu – the sire of three Derby winners is dead, after an illness, aged 16 – Crisford could also anticipate the infusion of flesh blood through young Darley stallions such as New Approach. "After one winner from one runner, we can't start talking about him yet," Crisford said. "But he has every chance of making the grade. It's exciting, because our future strength is in the hands of these stallions." And, if the present is anything to go by, Godolphin is more interested in its future than its past.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Granville Island (4.20 Wetherby) Managed to give a flourishing rival a real race on his handicap debut, despite pulling hard and making mistakes.
Galician (5.05 Lingfield) Looks fairly treated on her grounding in maidens.
One to watch
Simply Ben (Nick Mitchell) Maintained his progress when third on his handicap debut at Chepstow, giving the principals a start and doing well to close.
Where the money's going
Mull Of Killough is 14-1 from 16-1 with the sponsors for the William Hill Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster tomorrow.
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