Godolphin threaten to pull plug
Judging from the continued, heedless telescoping of steel and glass towers into the limpid dawn sky, somebody still has plenty of money to spend out here.
And while in the past couple of years Dubai has notoriously come to know embarrassment, as well as riches, the priceless thoroughbreds cantering against that restless backdrop yesterday morning were hardly going to be asked to dredge salt flats in the afternoon.
Over the past three decades, the Maktoum family have invested more in racing and breeding these animals than anyone in history. In the process, even so, they have required only a minute fraction of the resources and attention at their disposal.
Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers duly bring unique detachment to the exorbitant odds stacked against anyone trying to retrieve his costs in British and Irish racing. And, according to the manager of their elite stable, it is precisely their immunity to the bottom line that equips them to make a stand on behalf of others.
Simon Crisford pledged that none of the Godolphin horses returning for the new Flat season in Britain would contest any prize-money short of minimum levels recently recommended by a body representing industry professionals. And, if necessary, Godolphin might be among those who would increasingly "take their business elsewhere."
Dubai Millennium, perhaps Godolphin's greatest champion, began his career in a Yarmouth maiden. But prize-money at that track is nowadays so execrable that Crisford suggested Godolphin might underwrite the expense and inconvenience of finding an alternative
"If we have to, we'll take them to France and run in maidens there," he said. "We'll find a way round it. It'll mean a bit more paperwork. But it can be done, and will be done. Some owners don't need prize-money as much as others, and we'd be obvious candidates for that (category).
"But it's important to remember that prize-money is not just for owners. It filters all the way down, to the backbone of the sport, to the cogs that make the wheel turn. This isn't about owners being able to build themselves a new duck pond. This is all about the stable staff, about people being made redundant.
"We don't chase prize-money. We try to run the right horses in the right races, in order to upgrade their status. But if this isn't sorted out, people will take their business overseas."
Godolphin could win more in two minutes here on Saturday than during the entire season in Britain even though their three candidates for the Dubai World Cup reflect Crisford's overall assessment of their challenge -- "no bankers, but plenty of crossbar chances" -- for the richest card in history. "Poet's Voice is far and away the best of our World Cup contenders," he said.
Perhaps their most interesting runner is Rewilding in the Sheema Classic. This colt's emergence has vindicated two fresh strategies: given a grounding in France with Andre Fabre, he was then transferred to join Mahmood al Zarooni, newly promoted as Godolphin's second trainer. (© Independent News Service)