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Super six for Sheikh Mohammed’s Men in Blue at Ascot


GODOLPHIN’S exploits at Royal Ascot with Ribchester, Barney Roy, Benbatl, Atty Persse, Sound And Silence and Rare Rhythm, a 50th success for the team at the royal meeting, could not have been better timed. Those six stunning successes achieved in Berkshire, south west of London, turned the year into a landmark one for the stable which was established by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in 1992.

Moreover, it just seemed perfect that Ribchester’s opening win at this year’s mega event on 20 June coincided, to the day, with Sheikh Mohammed’s first ever victory as an owner in Britain. It was 40 years ago Hatta won what may have seemed an inconsequential race for 2yos of the time at Brighton. But the ripples of that win are felt around the world today with Godolphin growing into one of the biggest global operations in less than a quarter of a century.

Sheikh Mohammed summarised the Godolphin journey best, having witnessed at first hand Ribchester’s splendid success and said: “In life there is no winning post. You have to keep going, otherwise the rest will catch up with you.” Ribchester gave the stable a dream start when he won the opening race of the five day meeting, the 1600m Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, before Barney Roy justified his billing as favourite when he crushed the course record en route to the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes, which turned out to be the 250th Group One success for the Godolphin team.

It was an impressive performance from a spectacular performer and a remarkable achievement for Godolphin, who saw their other runner in the 1600m contest, Thunder Snow, miss out on second by a head. Trained by Richard Hannon and ridden by James Doyle, Barney Roy quickened in the final furlong to leave Lancaster Bomber and his stablemate behind after being declared ‘unlucky’ having finished second in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May. Hannon was thrilled with Barney Roy’s third success on only his fourth career start and said: “We felt he was unlucky in the Guineas when stumbling in the dip and if he was lucky he would win and so it proved. I was frustrated after the Guineas because he was a little inexperienced. That was what beat him.

We brought him here as a fresh horse, that was what Sheikh Mohammed wanted and he was dead right.” Doyle added: “That is only the fourth run of his life and he is still learning. He is very babyish, but he is learning all the time and has come out on top at the line.” Saeed bin Suroor was pleased with Thunder Snow’s third under Christophe Soumillon and said: “I think he would be better with easy ground, but I’m happy with the way he ran.” Ribchester was quick to get down to business in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes and ran a stylish race to win in record time from Mutakayyef.

It prompted the 4yo’s trainer, Richard Fahey, to declare: “He has to be the best I’ve trained, especially breaking the track record and that is not being disrespectful to other horses.” Rider William Buick added: “He’s an exceptional miler, of course he has lots of quality but travels so well and sees it out so well. You have to hand it to the horse, he’s an absolute jockey’s dream.” Trainer Charlie Appleby made an impact on the opening day too when claiming a 1-2 following Sound And Silence’s victory by a neck from stablemate Roussel in the Windsor Castle Stakes, a juvenile Listed contest over 1000m.

It was a third success of the day for Godolphin and the pair trained by Appleby traded blows throughout before Buick managed to steer Sound And Silence to the post first, with James Doyle following them home on Roussel. Celebrating a double, Buick said: “That was a great result. Charlie and myself have always held him in high regard and he showed up really early as a natural. He’s a real speedster, I don’t think he wants six furlongs yet.” Appleby added: “The 2yos were in great order and the team had done a fantastic job.

We’ve been very lucky the way the horses have come into the meeting. He’ll stay at five furlongs and go to Goodwood next for the Molecomb. I’m also pleased with the other lad as that was just his second start since coming from the breeze-ups. We eased off him after winning at Leicester and let him come to himself.” Godolphin failed to add to their success on day two, but Benbatl was clearly the star on the third day as he beat favourite Orderofthegarter in a tense finish to the Hampton Court Stakes, a Group Three contest over 2000m.

The 3yo Dubawi colt, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, had been dropped back to 2000m after his fifth in the 2400m Group 1 Derby at Epsom Downs three weeks earlier. He broke well under Oisin Murphy here and settled well behind the leaders in fifth. Murphy let him go wide entering the straight, quickening well to hit the front with 200m left and running on strongly to win by half a length, despite coming under pressure from the Aidan O’Brien-schooled Orderofthegarter. It was Bin Suroor’s 36th success at the royal meeting and the Emirati handler said: “When Benbatl won the first time, we thought he was the right horse for the big races.

“He finished fifth in the Derby and ran well, but he came from too far back and finished strongly so we thought a mile and a quarter would be better for him. Sheikh Mohammed made the decision to run him in today’s race and Benbatl is improving all the time. The trip was brilliant for him. He is a nice horse for the future. It is brilliant to win at Royal Ascot. These races are hard to win but finally we find the right horse to win.” There was more success in store for Godolphin later in the day and Atty Persse brought in a fifth success of the meeting when he led a 1-2 for the operation in the King George V Stakes, a handicap over 2000m.

Trained by Roger Charlton and partnered by apprentice rider Kieran Shoemark, Atty Persse beat First Nation, trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by Buick. Charlton said: “They went very quick and you had to think whether Atty Persse would have the petrol left to keep going, but he had lots left. He stayed on really well. Stamina is a strong thing with this horse. What we have seen today is a horse who stays a mile and a half really well. Atty Persse is very easy to train and, for a little horse, he has a very long stride.” Shoemark added: “Atty Persse made my job easy and had lots of early speed. It’s fantastic to have a winner here for an owner like Sheikh Mohammed.

It really does mean a lot. Appleby and Buick, together, returned to the winner’s enclosure on the fourth day when Rare Rhythm won the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, a handicap over 2400m. The 5yo son of Dubawi finished eighth in the race last year, his last competitive outing before this where he bounced back in style to provide Godolphin a 50th Royal Ascot success. Buick said: “Rare Rhythm has always had the engine. He was gelded and it’s ended up lighting the horse a little bit. He just seems more athletic after it.” Appleby had expected a good run.

“He has been off a long time, but we knew we had him right,” said Appleby, who saw another of his runners, Blue Point, finish a good third behind Harry Angel, making his Godolphin debut after a private purchase, in an epic finish to the 1200m Group 1 Commonwealth Cup, won by Caravaggio. Blue Point was ridden by Buick, while Adam Kirby took the reins for the Clive Cox-schooled Harry Angel. Earlier in the week, Usherette trained in France by Andre Fabre, was a fast finishing third under Mickael Barzalona in her defence of the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes over 1600m.

Wesley Ward’s American raider Lady Aurelia, winner of last year’s Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes under Frankie Dettori, returned to Ascot and ended up dominating the field under John Velazquez in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes over 1000m. Lady Aurelia proved too hot to handle and was chased home by Godolphin’s Profitable, trained by Clive Cox and with James Doyle aboard.

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15 Feb 2018
Issue Number: Issue 636
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