Glorious times for the royal blue silk of Godolphin but credit must go to the visionary leader

Alex Broun 20:19 03/06/2018
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HRH Sheikh Mohammed chats with HRH Queen Elizabeth II before the Derby.

These are glorious days for Godolphin.

Fresh from their surprise Dubai World Cup victory with Thunder Snow now an even more unexpected triumph as 3-year-old Chestnut colt Masar won Britain’s richest race, the Epsom Derby, on Saturday.

Trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by William Buick, the triumph ended a long wait for a first Derby winner in the royal blue silks to the delight of Godolphin’s founder and visionary leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.

The win was all the more surprising as it was Masar’s first trip over the distance having never raced before over an extended mile, but the son of New Approach and dam Khawlah burst through just before the two furlong marker and ran on to cross the line a length and a half clear of Dee Ex Bee.

It made it a one-two for Dubai with Dee Ex Bee owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai.

It’s fair to say that the victory in this prestigious 239-year-old race confirms the triumphant Godolphin team and its owner with a permanent spot as one of the all-time greats of horse racing.

Much of the credit to this victory must go to Sheikh Mohammed himself for his revitalisation of Godolphin over the past 12 months.

Disappointed with Godolphin’s return in 2016-17, the founder moved quickly to make strategic operational and structural changes that have borne considerable fruit already in late 2017 and early 2018.

(L-R) Jockey William Buick, Princess of Dubai Sheikha Al Jalila bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai Sheikh Hamdan, Godolphin owner Sheikh Mohammed celebrates his horse Masar winning the Investec Derby race with trainer Charlie Appleby on Derby Day at Epsom Downs

(L-R) Jockey William Buick, Princess of Dubai Sheikha Al Jalila bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai Sheikh Hamdan, Godolphin owner Sheikh Mohammed celebrates his horse Masar winning the Investec Derby race with trainer Charlie Appleby on Derby Day at Epsom Downs

Key to these was a return to the core values and trusted experts who have brought Godolphin so much success in the past, such as Saeed bin Suroor the mastermind behind Thunder Snow’s victory at Meydan. And of course Appleby.

It’s been a process of recognising what Godolphin do well and focusing on that, not allowing themselves to be distracted from the fundamental qualities.

A perfect example is Masar.

Appleby clearly realised that Masar ran best in English conditions. Of his four wins from nine starts to date all four of those have been in GB: the Novice Stakes at Goodwood in May 2017; the Group 3 Stakes at Sandown in September 2013; the Craven Stakes (G3) at Newmarket in April this year (the run that set him up as a real contender for Epsom); and the Derby itself.

In between Masar lost his way and those with less experience may have doubted their faith in the young flyer.

The colt ran sixth at Del Mar, California, in the Breeders Cup in November last year and then in March this year ran 10th from 13 in a Listed Race on Dirt at Meydan.

It is incredible the same horse then won one of the world’s greatest horse races less than three months later.

But this is the secret of Godolphin’s success. Of their hundreds of horses they know where and when to run each to bring out their very best.

Also who to partner them with, in this case Buick, who has ridden Masar almost exclusively since his first race at Goodwood less than fifteen months ago.

Masar runs on to win the Derby at Epsom Downs.

Masar runs on to win the Derby at Epsom Downs.

To run an extraordinary operation like Godolphin across the globe takes vision, management and clarity.

For example just this past weekend (Sat-Sun) Godolphin had 44 starters in five different countries (France, Japan, Australia, Ireland and England) across three continents – and they did so for five winners and seven placings.

To achieve such results over such a period of time takes excellence, discipline and a constant striving to be better.

However there is one more triumph that Sheikh Mohammed seeks – the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s biggest horse race and one of the most famous meetings on the planet. This is one glittering prize Godolphin are yet to attain.

But with the winning momentum that the famous royal blue silks are building,come November they may just be unstoppable and finally the trophy cabinet will be complete.

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