Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 20 January 2018

Blue glory vindicates Godolphin's new order

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

On both a macro and micro level, Blue Bunting's last-gasp triumph in yesterday's Irish Oaks was proof positive that you write Sheikh Mohammed and his team off at your peril.

The Dubai prince's filly disappointed in the Epsom equivalent six weeks ago, but word had it that connections felt lots had gone against her on the day. They wrote it off as a blip not to be dwelt on, with Frankie Dettori's premature easing of Blue Bunting when she looked booked for third summing up their desire to just get the thing over with once it had become clear she wasn't going to win.

At The Curragh yesterday, their faith was vindicated. Just as it was when she scorched home in the 1,000 Guineas in May, Dettori was at work a long way out, but the daughter of Dynaformer kept finding more to deny the always-game Banimpire. Much as the game needs a domestic Classic winner that is trained somewhere in Ireland other than Ballydoyle, the Sheikh has always put a lot into Irish racing.

No one begrudged him victory in a Group One that he sponsors via his Darley Stud.

The win also confirmed that his ongoing regeneration of his racing empire is working. Just a couple of years ago, as Ballydoyle's relentless influence swelled and the Sheikh's policy of shunning the progeny of Coolmore sires began to cost Godolphin dearly, he splashed out in the manner of old on other people's potential stars.

At times, such as when he bought Jim Bolger's Epsom Derby hero New Approach, it was a strategy that yielded rich dividends. However, Sheikh Mohammad's Godolphin vision is ultimately built on the concept of producing its own heavyweights.

To that end, while the acquisition of the likes of New Approach and Teofilo has been vital for the Darley breeding arm, two other tactical decisions have been crucial to his renewed on-course muscle. Both are of the same principal -- spreading resources.

On the one hand, Sheikh Mohammed began sending more of his two-year-olds elsewhere; Casamento's glorious juvenile campaign under Mick Halford's care soon advertised the advantages of that strategy.

Secondly, he appointed Mahmood Al Zarooni as an auxiliary trainer alongside Saeed bin Suroor. Since his appointment last year, Godolphin has thrived.

In that time, the operation has yielded 13 Group Ones, seven of which have been saddled by Al Zarooni. This year, he has conquered So You Think at Royal Ascot with Rewilding, and now Blue Bunting is a dual Classic-winning broodmare-to-be.

The man clearly knows what he is doing -- as does the man who appointed him.

O'Meara's star on meteoric rise

David O'Meara, who hails from Fermoy, rode 126 jumps winners before switching his attentions to training in Yorkshire. He has been an instant hit. Since saddling his first runners in June 2010, he has now sent out 60 winners. Blue Bajan has already given him a first Group prize and, if Silvestre de Souza is crowned champion jockey, the hatful of winners O'Meara is supplying him with will have had plenty to do with it. On Saturday, the fledgling trainer teamed up with fellow Cork native Denis O'Regan to secure the Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen with Viva Colonia.

Ride of the weekend

Pat Shanahan on Across The Rhine on Saturday.

Despite being drawn closer to the stands side in stall five of eight at The Curragh, Shanahan took Tracey Collins' charge to the middle of the track to race in isolation. He obviously felt that the ground was better over there, and the rest of the field eventually followed. However, Across The Rhine had already gained the advantage, and never saw another horse to win under hands and heels. It was just the veteran rider's second win of the season, and a first since May. You wouldn't have known it.

Tajweed justifies Plate 'trial' entry

With Tajweed the sole Galway Plate entry in yesterday's 'trial' at Tipperary, only a win for him could validate the race's title. Luke Comer's charge didn't disappoint, defying odds of 16/1 to record a first ever success over jumps. Still, with just 7st 5lb in the Plate before his penalty for yesterday, a place in the Plate line-up is unlikely.


"I just had a normal person weekend. Thoroughly enjoyed myself but I really have to stop getting suspensions now."

-- Following her moment of glory last week, Hayley Turner ponders life as a 'normal person' during an enforced couple of days off.


175 Frankie Dettori's haul of international Group Ones following Blue Bunting's Oaks triumph.

Irish Independent

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