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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Ice had already been broken – but no mistaking the symbolism

Chris McGrath on Godolphin's €1.2 million bid to let bygones be bygones

Coolmore's trainer Aidan O'Brien shakes hands with Sheikh Mohammed after winning the 2012 UAE Derby: now the two camps appear to have entered a new era
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So the nettle has finally been grasped: a seven-figure Galileo yearling joins Godolphin – with none other than Coolmore's MV Magnier as underbidder.

A scenario widely anticipated since the start of the yearling sales season was duly enacted at Goffs on Tuesday when a filly from Ballylinch Stud was contested by the rival superpowers of the European bloodstock market.

And when the gavel came down at €1.2 million to the bid of John Gosden and Anthony Stroud it testified that over a decade of frostiness really has come to an end. Having so long renounced stock by Coolmore sires at public auction, Sheikh Mohammed has now thawed to the point that he is prepared to buy a yearling by Galileo himself.


The symbolism was inescapable. The sheikh would be within his rights to claim that there was nothing to see here. His men, after all, had ended a boycott extending to 2005 at Keeneland only a few days previously: initially with a fairly token gesture, joining a frenzy for the last crop of the deceased Scat Daddy; but then with a series of investments arguably more meaningful even than conceding the indispensability of the mighty Galileo. These favoured a young Coolmore sire trying to make his name, Australia, and two others in their prime, Uncle Mo and Lookin At Lucky.

But this filly – at that price, bidding against John Magnier's own son – unmistakably completes the impression that relations between the Maktoum brothers and their longstanding adversaries have entered a new phase.

Whether it might merely be coincidence, that so conspicuous a change of policy should follow the resignation of John Ferguson from the Godolphin helm in June, can only be surmised. After all, there have been other signs of a rapprochement: in Coolmore's gradual acknowledgement, for instance, that the Dubai World Cup meeting is too valuable to ignore.


Either way, the fact is that the sheikh's boycott has proved to be nearly coterminous with the emergence of Galileo as an epoch-making sire. It began even as Galileo's first crop was appearing on the track, and left the sheikh obliged to Jim Bolger for private access to his blood through the likes of Teofilo and New Approach.

Teofilo: the first fruit of Jim Bolger's punt on Galileo beats Holy Roman Emperor, a son of Coolmore stalwart Danehill - and would soon open the back door to Galileo for Sheikh Mohammed
As Galileo magnified his reputation, it had come to feel increasingly as though the sheikh was cutting off his nose to spite his face. The chances are, of course, that the whole stand-off was never so puerile. None of the parties involved are stupid. The roots of the discord, however, are now likely to remain underground – leaving all neutrals relieved no longer to be compromised by a schism that could only ever be evaluated from the outside.

All that remains is for Coolmore to reciprocate with an olive branch of their own. Some Godolphin sires offer a perfectly feasible outcross for a farm saturated with Galileo's blood. Once that happens, everyone really will be able to assent to what Stroud and company were evidently eager to imply yesterday: 'Nothing to see here, move along.' Once that happens, everyone can indeed try to move along; to move forward together, even. Because it's a hard enough game, as it is.

If you are interested in this, you might like:

New regime at Godolphin has the chance of a fresh start with Coolmore

Thaw in the big freeze as Godolphin buy four yearlings by Coolmore sires

Doyen of his trade O'Connor enriching Ballylinch heritage for new era

The fact is that the Sheikh’s boycott has proved to be nearly coterminous with the emergence of Galileo as an epoch-making sire

Key data

Godolphin Galileo
E.W. Terms
Sky bet