Sheikh rebuffs his critics

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The Independent Online
SHEIKH Hamdan al Maktoum's three-year-old colt Bahri should have stolen the racing headlines with a startling victory in the feature race here yesterday, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, with Willie Carson's adventurous tactics - taking his horse wide from the stalls to find firmer ground - proving the decisive factor in the victory over the odds-on favourite, Ridgewood Pearl. But it was another old move made by Hamdan's brother, Sheikh Mohammed, which seized the attention of the English racing community on this Festival day.

For, in an unprecedented declaration of authority, the sheikh, the most successful and powerful of his family, defended his right to take any of his horses to be wintered in Dubai under the auspices of his highly successful Godolphin racing operation.

The sheikh, apparently reacting to a recent newspaper article which seemed to criticise his "cherry-picking" of two-year-olds for Dubai, offered a less than oblique rebuff to Henry Cecil's stable, which has recently lost Allied Forces and Mark Of Esteem, to Godolphin.

"I have nothing against Henry Cecil," he said "I have great respect for him, but he has allowed people who know nothing about thoroughbred racing to become too close to him."

Referring to the imminent announcement of the list of other horses who will be winging their way to Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed said: "We are a team. No one man can say where the horses will go or train. But I will say that Godolphin will not grow bigger than it is now."

And he added, just to remind any trainers in this country who may feel put out by the Dubai system that, "We cannot take donkeys out there and bring them back as horses. We must choose good horses."

The essence of the sheikh's statement, delivered in his luxury suite near the paddock, could probably be translated into "Mind your own business," but he insisted that "Godolphin is good for British racing".

Followers of Hamdan al Maktoum's Bahri may have feared that the horse was already on its way to Dubai when his jockey, Willie Carson, turned sharp left out of the stalls at the start of the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. But the ploy, to find the better ground under the trees, worked perfectly as Carson was able to steer Bahri back across the course with a two-length advantage as the field entered the straight. That soon became six lengths as Carson swept Bahri clear of the Irish challenger Ridgewood Pearl.

"It's only two furlongs of good ground," Carson observed afterwards, "but it definitely gave me the advantage."

Earlier, in the first of the day's Group races, the Cumberland Lodge Stakes, Riyadian, the well-backed 2-1 favourite, cruised home five lengths clear of Richard Of York. Always handily placed by the Scottish jockey Richard Quinn, Riyadian effortlessly went clear from the two-furlong pole.

However, connections played down the possibility that the three-year- old might be supplemented for next Sunday's Arc at Longchamp.

Travel plans for the other Pattern race winner Mons, who landed the Royal Lodge Stakes, were a little clearer, with the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket next May his main destination. The bookmakers offered the Luca Cumani- trained colt at 16-1 for the 2,000, but anyone taking the odds might wish to consider that only Mr Baileys of recent Royal Lodge winners has gone on to take the Guineas.

This afternoon at Ascot, Henry Cecil may be hoping his two-year-old Bosra Sham will restore his esteem in Arab circles by landing the Fillies' Mile.