Newmarket// Godolphin have been in an almost permanent state of flux for the past few seasons, but the signs are there that the shoots of change appear to be bearing fruit on what is one of the great weekends of racing in the international calendar.
The UAE stamp is emblazoned on most of the best action this weekend; the royal blue silks will be carried once again in the Kentucky Derby by Frosted at Churchill Downs, a race in which Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa’s colours will be also represented by UAE Derby winner Mubtaahij.
Godolphin and Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid both have runners in the English 2,000 Guineas on Saturday and the English 1,000 Guineas on Sunday. In France on Sunday, the international stable’s Fractional attempts to dislodge the crown of 2012 Dubai Sheema Classic winner Cirrus Des Aigles in the Group 1 Prix Ganay at Longchamp.
It is here, however, at the headquarters of British racing, that the new Godolphin blueprint is seen to best effect.
Godolphin seek a second 2,000 Guineas win in three years with Territories, a colt based in Chantilly with French trainer Andre Fabre. Two seasons ago Dawn Approach, trained in Ireland by Jim Bolger, delivered Godolphin a first win in the first major European Classic of the season since Island Sands in 1999.
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Bolger will saddle Lucida in the 1,000 Guineas on Sunday. The filly carries the burden of favouritism after Aidan O’Brien’s two fillies, Found and Together Forever, were scratched at Friday’s declarations stage.
Lucida will be ably supported by Local Time, a filly who scythed through the UAE season, posting wins in the Guineas and Oaks at Meydan for trainer Saeed bin Suroor, and has returned to Newmarket to embark on a European campaign.
To have two live chances in the first major European Classics of the season is something to be expected from Godolphin. To have them trained in outposts in Ireland and France is something that may become a more regular occurrence.
In October, Godolphin purchased a major interest in Belardo, Europe’s champion two year old, who remained in training with Roger Varian in Newmarket.
In November, when the latest shake-up of Godolphin took place and resulted in the announcement that James Doyle and William Buick would be principal riders, it was also revealed that John Gosden would train Godolphin runners for the first time.
This was due to the fact that the Godolphin blue was to replace Princess Haya of Jordan’s green and black silks on all runners.
Another trainer in Newmarket was added to the Godolphin roster just last week. Godolphin announced the purchase of the exciting sprinter Lightning Moon, who will remain with Ed Walker. Walker also trains for Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmook and the Dubai Thoroughbred Racing syndicate.
Godolphin have increased their roster of trainers in Ireland these past few seasons, too. In 2013, Willie McCreery sent out just one runner in the famous maroon and white colours of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
He has saddled five Godolphin runners this season from his base in County Kildare. After a few campaigns in the doldrums, a clear strategy has been put together and the effects of its implementation are clear.
The revival, if it can yet be called as such, is characterised perfectly by the presence of Mickael Barzalona on Territories for what will be his first ride in Britain since October.
Barzalona was sent back to Fabre in June last year after Charlie Appleby began to follow the policy of using the best jockey available.
Barzalona said it had been a ‘difficult time’ for him at Moulton Paddocks, and he has rebuilt his confidence under the tutelage of Fabre, who unearthed him in the first place.
Barzalona rode Territories to an impressive victory in the Group 3 Prix De Fountainbleu over a mile on good to soft ground three weeks ago. It may not have been the strongest race, but Territories travelled beautifully and barely broke sweat before Barzalona eased him up approaching the line.
Immediately after the race, a Godolphin representative suggested next Sunday’s French 2,000 Guineas was a suitable target. As a sign of the depth of talent Godolphin have at their disposal at the moment, Territories lines up in Newmarket, while UAE 2,000 Guineas winner Maftool and Belardo head to Longchamp.
This has long been earmarked as a resurgent season for Godolphin, and with Bin Suroor’s Prince Bishop throwing down the gauntlet with a win in the Dubai World Cup in March, there is all to play for.
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