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07 Aug 2018
Issue Number: Issue 647
Seemar can only hope for another upward performance from North America
Dubai playing a key role in British racing, says Jockey Club boss
Busybody Tadhg looks to scale mountains after climbing Hills
Nass’ trial and error style seems to be working wonders for him
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Sheikh Mohammed comes full circle in Masar’s Derby success


The thrilling and historic victory of Masar in the Derby at Epsom completed the latest chapter in an adventure on which Sheikh Mohammed first embarked a little over 40 years ago. Godolphin are perhaps the largest racing and breeding operation in the world today but it all started out on a June afternoon at Brighton Racecourse in 1977 when a juvenile filly named Hatta won her new owner, a then unknown Emirati royal Sheikh Mohammed, his first race. Few would have realised the significance of the occasion and you’d have to be a psychic with a crystal ball to perhaps know how and what that seemingly obscure victory was about to snowball into over the next four decades.

From a young age, Sheikh Mohammed had held a fascination for horses; captivated by their power, elegance, speed and grace he often rode bareback races with friends on Jumeirah Beach. During his studies in Cambridge, Sheikh Mohammed attended his first race meeting at Newmarket where he watched Royal Palace win the 2000 Guineas in May 1967 along with his brother, Sheikh Hamdan. A decade later, Hatta’s success in the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, which followed up on that obscure Brighton win, whetted his appetite to dominate globally. His passion for horses resulted in a major investment in bloodstock and has ultimately turned Godolphin into the world’s leading racing team and Darley into an ultra successful stallion operation.

Sheikh Mohammed’s racing colours have evolved immensely over the years. Initially recorded as ‘royal blue, white chevron, blue cap, white star’, they were later replaced by ‘maroon, white sleeves, maroon cap with white star’. In 1976, Sheikh Mohammed, Warden and Dunlop attended the October Yearling Sales at Newmarket and bought three horses including Hatta, whose wins paved the way for a future that saw him win the British Champion Owner accolade on nine occasions. He won five consecutive titles starting in 1985 and then three more from 1991-1993, the ninth arriving in 1997, his 20th year in racing. Probably because of the exploits of Hatta, Sheikh Mohammed’s interest in the sport started to increase, but it was after meeting Col.

Dick Warden that things really took off. Warden was charged with the task of sourcing Sheikh Mohammed’s initial bloodstock interests and the horses were duly sent to John Dunlop for training. The first time Warden went to Keeneland on behalf of his new client, he came back with Awaasif and Jalmood, who won a Group One and Group Three race respectively. Awaasif foaled Snow Bride, the dam of Lammtarra, the Saeed bin Suroortrained winner of the 1995 Derby at Epsom for his nephew Sheikh Saeed. Sheikh Mohammed picked up his first title as Godolphin’s main patron in 1996 and ten more followed, with their most recent accolade arriving last term. Over time, he has bred and raced some of the best horses the sport has seen.

Runners like Singspiel, who won the second edition of the Dubai World Cup in 1997, and Dubai Millennium, winner of the same race three years later, went on to become successful sires as well with the latter fathering just one crop which included Irish 2000 Guineas winner Dubawi, who is now the star of Darley’s European arm and the sire of Wuheida who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Fillies & Mares Turf at Del Mar. Lammtarra won the Derby at Epsom in 1995 having been nurtured back to health and race fitness by the trainer Saeed bin Suroor at Godolphin’s traditional Dubai base in Al Quoz. One of Sheikh Mohammed’s best purchases would have to be New Approach, who was bought by him for Princess Haya.

Not only did the colt win the Derby at Epsom in 2008, but he has sired progeny that have made an impact at the highest level of the sport. The latest being Masar, who was unrelenting under William Buick as he hunted down the greatest prize in Thoroughbred Flat racing when he emulated his sire’s heroics and won last week’s 239th running of the Derby. Sometimes things have a tendency to go full circle and in Masar’s sensational success you can see the end of one and the start of the next.

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