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Peace in our time? Everyone in the business will certainly be hoping so

Chris McGrath urges Coolmore to match Sheikh Mohammed's olive branch

Sheikh Mohammed and Aidan O'Brien, Coolmore's principal trainer, show the courtesy that already exists between the camps
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Life, it had long seemed, was surely complicated enough. Even the most expensive yearling, after all, is not guaranteed to prove any kind of racehorse once someone actually gets a saddle on its back. So whatever first caused Sheikh Mohammed to reject some of the world's most potent bloodlines, his readiness to make a fresh start with Coolmore is good news for the whole industry.

To buy a couple of Scat Daddy yearlings on the opening day at Keeneland had been a fairly superficial gesture. It might have been in a paddock at Ashford, Coolmore's Kentucky farm, that Scat Daddy dropped dead a couple of winters ago; but there would be no incidental gain for Coolmore should a member of his final crop turn into a Godolphin champion.

The four yearlings by Coolmore stallions acquired on Tuesday, however, represented a statement as unequivocal as it was edifying. Two were by Australia, a young sire trying to make his name; the others were by Ashford stallions in their prime.

A clean slate

Whether or not it would be fair to associate the "boycott" with John Ferguson, the resignation of Sheikh Mohammed's senior bloodstock adviser in June has evidently been treated as an opportunity – as urged in these columns at the time – to wipe the slate clean. And not before time, for all those professionals obliged either to line up on one or other side of the playground, or to attempt a nervous neutrality.

For while a natural desire now to move on deserves respect – fair exchange, surely, for a manly acknowledgement that the situation had festered too long – even the few syllables offered by the Sheikh's team at Keeneland measure how absurd was the corner in which they had been painted.

Whether or not John Ferguson encouraged Sheikh Mohammed's boycott of Coolmore, his exit has been treated as an opportunity for a fresh start
"It would be remiss of us," said one, "if we didn't look at horses by Scat Daddy and judge them on their merits." That should go without saying. Just saying it, then, speaks volumes about matters unsaid for the last decade or so.

Outcross options

But enlightened self-interest cuts both ways. Some rapprochement, for instance, has been legible in Coolmore's gradual admission that the Dubai World Cup card is too valuable to ignore. And the ball is now very much in their court. Coolmore urgently needs outcross options for a farm saturated by Galileo, and it would be churlish to pretend that no feasible options might lurk among yearlings sired at Jonabell or Dalham Hall.

For a man as proud as the Sheikh to have made so handsome a first move should be recognised as no small sacrifice. Some reciprocal evidence that the market can stop worrying about the crossfire, then, would be most welcome. That way, everyone – not just the Sheikh, not just Magnier, but everyone who shares the passion that unites as well as divides them – could get on in peace with what is already an exorbitant challenge to their resources, financial and otherwise.


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And not before time, for all those professionals obliged either to line up on one or other side of the playground, or to attempt a nervous neutrality
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