The Godolphin empire, overshadowed by arch-rivals Coolmore so far this season, have started their strike-back.
Yesterday morning in Newmarket, the 2,000 Guineas flop Ibn Khaldun put himself back in the Derby picture with a sparkling workout. Here in the afternoon, Creachadoir set the early standard among elite milers this season with a determined victory in the Lockinge Stakes. And this afternoon at Longchamp, the blues have the chance of their second Group One success of the campaign with Literato.
Yesterday's first was also a breakthrough for Creachadoir, previously runner-up three times at the top level but only eighth when well-fancied for the Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba in March. Here the four-year-old tracked pedestrian leader Rob Roy, went clear as soon as Frankie Dettori showed him daylight going to the last furlong, and thereafter gamely repelled all comers, headedby the three-quarter-length runner-up Phoenix Tower.
"He's a much stronger horse this year," said trainer Saeed Bin Suroor, "and had been going very well at home. He was disappointing in Dubai, and now he's proved he's as good as we thought."
It was Godolphin's fourth Lockinge win, 10 years after Cape Cross initiated a hat-trick completed by Fly To The Stars and Aljabr. Creachadoir, the 3-1 favourite, will now head to Royal Ascot next month for the Queen Anne Stakes, where he will possibly renew rivalry with Phoenix Tower (the longer Prince Of Wales's Stakes is also on his radar), and definitely with yesterday's neck third Tariq, who was thwarted by a combination of his first-time-out over-keenness and the early crawl.
Dettori was delighted with his day's work, both on the track and behind the scenes. "Creachadoir is a wonderful horse to be around," he said. "He's very willing, wants to please, and has a terrific presence. He felt fresh, but he settled well off what was a slow pace and his turn of foot took two lengths out of the field as soon as I wanted.
"There was a bit of pressure today, but he didn't let me down. He was a good horse last year and he will be a force to be reckoned with in all the mile races."
The performance of Ibn Khaldun in the Guineas was a shock to those closest to him, but he now seems set to lead the Godolphin challenge for the Derby after impressing in a seven-furlong spin on the Limekilns. "He felt good," said Dettori, "much more like himself, jig-jogging and lively. In the Guineas he just felt asleep."
For the Derby, Godolphin also have Rio De La Plata and Fast Company, who will work this morning ahead of a possible tilt at Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh. Dettori hasyet to commit himself to aparticular saddle at Epsom. "We'll be doing some serious work next week," he added, "and I'll let the horses tell me which one themselves."
The 2,000 Guineas winner Henrythenavigator, one of Ballydoyle's Derby contenders, is scheduled to lock horns again with his nose Rowley Milevictim New Approach in the Irish version of the Classic. "He'll run if the ground is good or better," said Aidan O'Brien, whosehigh-profile Australian import Haradasun lost any chance in the Lockinge Stakes after being hampered inside the final furlong.
In France today Literato, only 12th when favourite for the Dubai Duty Free, renews rivalry in the Prix d'Ispahan with star filly Darjina, second in a finish of heads in Dubai.