Author: Michele Macdonald

WHILE 2021 may have been known to those who follow the Chinese Zodiac as the year of the plodding ox, anyone who pays attention to Thoroughbred racing will always remember it as the year of the swift Godolphin horses who blazed to intercontinental glory, particularly in North America.

Even before balloting for the Eclipse Awards closed on 10 January, Godolphin had been officially crowned as the leading owner and breeder on the North American continent by 2021 earnings, giving voters millions of reasons to vote for the Maktoum family’s stable to sweep the titles for the first time.

The latest meritorious acknowledgement came from The Jockey Club, which on 7 January confirmed that Godolphin ranked as leading breeder, both individually and with partners, for the season. Runners bred solely by Godolphin won 136 races and banked $18,447,150, which apparently is the second highest total of earnings for a breeder in American history and most certainly in two decades.

With partners, Godolphin’s 2021 record of earnings as breeder was $20,705,957. Adena Springs, which is no longer a force in the sport but which controlled the leading breeder by earnings category for ten undisputed years from 2003 through 2012, posted the record high mark of $19.2 million in seasonal earnings in 2008.

For 2021, Godolphin topped a list of breeders that included the 2019 and 2020 leader, Calumet Farm, a larger business by number of mares and foals produced annually and which bred the earners of $16.1 million last season.

Other breeders in the top ten below Godolphin included juggernaut farms Stonestreet, WinStar, Juddmonte and Spendthrift. Four days before the 2021 top breeder earnings announcement, Equibase singled out Godolphin for distinction as the leading North American owner for 2021 with record setting stable earnings of $17,403,204, which was an eye-popping $5.2 million higher than the previous all time mark of $12.2 million set by Ken and Sarah Ramsey in 2013.

With 15 Graded Stakes winners in North America, Godolphin amassed an incredible $29,398,204 when the bankrolls of horses that raced on the Dubai World Cup and Saudi Cup programmes are added in to the totals, as Equibase has typically done over the years.

Clearly, 2021 was a year that never will be forgotten in Godolphin annals. When the Eclipse Awards are presented at Santa Anita Park on 10 February, the odds seem to heavily favour a sweep of both the outstanding owner and breeder trophies, which would be another first for the Maktoums’ operation.

Godolphin has won the outstanding owner award in three previous seasons (2009, 2012 and 2020) and Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud was recognised in a tie for the award with Lael Stables in 2006. Darley also captured the outstanding breeder trophy in 2012, but that prize has, before the current award season, eluded Godolphin, partly because, under past practices, most of the stable’s horses were bred in the Darley name.

If, or perhaps we should just go ahead and say when, Godolphin is honoured with both awards, the stable will join such elite owner and breeder operations as Juddmonte, Adena Springs and its principal, Frank Stronach, and the late Ogden Phipps to sweep the prizes in a single season.

Ahmed Zayat’s Zayat Stables also won both awards for 2015 after American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. While Godolphin remains a top story in American racing in so many ways, the first full week of 2022 also revealed updates on potential contenders for the big Middle East races.

Godolphin’s Mystic Guide is back in serious training with hopes he can defend the Dubai World Cup title he won last year over Japan’s Chuwa Wizard. Mystic Guide turned in two timed workouts, two weeks apart and each over 3f, in December at Fair Grounds for trainer Mike Stidham.

The 5yo by Ghostzapper was clocked in :36.20 on 26 December, fastest of four moves that day over the distance. Trainer Mike Stidham has cautioned that, although Mystic Guide has been “floating” over the track, he will not be pushed to get to Dubai as he continues to regain his fitness following surgery to remove a bone chip in a knee.

“We’re going to let him tell us. We won’t rush anything,” Stidham told Daily Racing Form. Mystic Guide ran three times in 2021, winning the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap prior to his World Cup victory, and concluding his season with a close second place effort to Max Player in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park on 3 July.

Undefeated budding superstar Flightline, who recorded the fastest Beyer Speed Figure for 2021 when awarded 118 for winning the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on 26 December at Santa Anita, apparently will not be travelling across the ocean for either the Dubai World Cup or the Saudi Cup.

Trainer John Sadler squashed hopes for a Flightline junket to the desert during a radio broadcast on 8 January. However, the trainer did not reveal the next target he has in mind for the now 4yo son of Tapit, although he has previously mentioned the Metropolitan Handicap over one mile at Belmont Park, which will not be run until 11 June.

Dubai World Cup contender and Grade One winner Hot Rod Charlie is on track to leave for Dubai on 17 January, his connections said after the colt worked a half-mile before fans prior to the Santa Anita races on 8 January. Tentative plans call for the son of Oxbow to compete in the Grade 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round II on 4 February as a prep for the Dubai World Cup, trainer Doug O’Neill said, although his team is still making sure all travel and other considerations can be fulfilled under whatever Covid protocols might be in place as the season unfolds.

Jockey Flavien Prat was aboard Hot Rod Charlie in the workout, and O’Neill said the rider “was very happy. Flavien said, ‘He did it very easily.’” Juddmonte’s Mandaloun, second in the 2021 Kentucky Derby to Medina Spirit and later placed first in the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes upon the disqualification of ‘first to the wire’ finisher Hot Rod Charlie, is progressing promisingly on a path that could take him to the Saudi Cup.

Trainer Brad Cox reported that the Into Mischief colt was “doing great” after breezing 6f at the Fair Grounds on 9 January. Mandaloun has the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes at that track on 22 January as his prep target prior to the larger goal of a Middle East mission.

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile victor Life Is Good, who trainer Todd Pletcher has mentioned as a possibility for the Dubai World Cup and/or the Saudi Cup, also seems to be thriving as he heads for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes at Gulfstream Park on 29 January.

“Everything has gone according to plan,” Pletcher said of Life Is Good, another son of Into Mischief who the trainer has praised as having “unlimited potential.” Life Is Good worked 5f on 8 January at Palm Beach Downs in Florida. “He’s a phenomenal workhorse.

He’s a very talented, gifted animal that when you watch him breeze, you kind of look at your stopwatch and it doesn’t look like what you’d expect to see when he’s doing it. He’s doing it so easily,” Pletcher said. “He continues to train very impressively. We’re three weeks out (from the Pegasus) and we’re happy with where we are.”

Michele MacDonald
Award Winning International Journalist