Schiaparelli emerges as Sheikh's Arc hope
Though many Manchester City fans doubtless imagine otherwise, not even petrodollars always guarantee a quick fix. True, Sheikh Mohammed bought a champion juvenile last year and ended up winning the Derby. But the investments he has made over the past 18 months – startling as they have been, even by his own standards – have largely been geared towards the longer term.
A regiment of young stallions, along with historic nurseries in America and Australia, should together invigorate his stagnant breeding empire. In turn, the Sheikh hopes to arrest the present mediocrity of his racing division, but that is clearly not going to happen overnight. Admirable as the strategy is, in the meantime it would presumably sweeten morale if his principal stable could end a wretched campaign with a flourish.
And it does now look possible for Godolphin at least to be meaningfully represented in two of the most globally resonant prizes still to be contested on the Flat. In a fortnight All The Good will be flown to Australia to prepare for the Melbourne Cup, and a few days later the stable could yet have a say in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
True, Schiaparelli could hardly rival the breathtaking éclat of Zarkava when they both went on trial over the Arc course and distance at Longchamp on Sunday. Sure enough, one is 25-1 and the other 6-4. But Schiaparelli's rehearsal certainly entitled him to each-way consideration if the ground happened to turn against the filly on 5 October.
Schiaparelli joined Godolphin after winning three consecutive Group Ones last year, two in his native Germany and one in Italy, only to become another source of frustration for his new masters. His appearance in the Prix Foy was his first in 11 months, and in the circumstances he shaped very well, rallying to be beaten only half a length by Zambezi Sun. While Schiaparelli could hardly hope to match Zarkava's pace on similar ground, testing conditions would narrow the gap.
Simon Crisford, the Godolphin manager, confirmed yesterday that rain would make the Arc very tempting for Schiaparelli. "It was a big run, after being off the track all that time," he said. "He'd had some bone bruising, on one of his forelegs, so he had a quiet summer and we got him ready for this race. And though he was ready enough to run, he would not have been ready to run up to his very best.
"Obviously much depends on how he propels forward over the next few weeks. There are also races like the Canadian International, for instance. But he has a good profile, this horse – he has solid form and a good attitude. And soft ground would make the Arc a very different kind of race."
The stable's most recent Arc winner, Marienbard, also made his breakthrough in Germany and Schiaparelli conforms to the national stereotype as a hardy type that might outstay flashier rivals in deep ground. Crisford made it plain that the Godolphin jockey, Frankie Dettori, would be required to ride Schiaparelli if he does run in the Arc, despite having offered his services to André Fabre for Getaway.
As for All The Good, he was impressive in the Newbury "Ebor", and the Sheikh, who is rapidly building up his stake in Australian racing, would love to lay down a marker at Flemington in November. "All The Good has been handicapped up to his best," Crisford admitted. "But he is a battle-hardened horse, with lots of practice in big fields, and he'll have a warm-up in either the Caulfield Cup or the Geelong Cup."
Godolphin need not seek far for inspiration in retrieving the fading paths of glory. Henry Cecil was written off even more mercilessly before crowning his revival in the Oaks last year, and he could well have come up with another Classic prospect in Wingwalker, a Dansili colt whose debut success at Newmarket has been working out really well.
Wingwalker undertakes the next stage of his education at Sandown today, though the most valuable prize of the afternoon is offered at Listowel, where Ponmeoath, impressive last year, returns for the Guinness Kerry National – a race won in 2002 by the subsequent Grand National winner, Monty's Pass.
* A Jackpot of £200,000 is likely at Beverley today after the bet was not won at Haydock yesterday. A Tote spokesman said: "Five horses were fully covered in the the last leg at Haydock but then 8-1 chance Hawridge Star scuppered those lines."
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