Why it's a crucial Classic weekend for the Godolphin breeding system
Martin Stevens on why homebred Guineas success would matter so much
Godolphin's two-year-old squadron for 2018 can only have been enhanced by gaining progeny of superlative sire Galileo. But the question of whether Sheikh Mohammed absolutely needs the assistance of a stallion owned by his great rivals at Coolmore in order for his racing programme to be restored to its former glory is not so straightforward.
It has become almost axiomatic among racing fans and many in the breeding industry that a downturn in Godolphin's fortunes on the track was due to the sheikh's long-held refusal to purchase stock by Coolmore sires at source.
When that self-imposed embargo ended last year, with five yearlings by Galileo bought to carry the royal blue silks including the filly out of Dank for 4,000,000gns, there was much chin stroking and nodding of heads sagely. 'Ah, now that Sheikh Mohammed has relented and acknowledged Galileo's brilliance, Godolphin have been saved,' so popular opinion seemed to go.
Well, maybe, maybe not. Had Godolphin bought more Galileo yearlings over the years, there would undoubtedly have been classy horses among them. But there would have also been plenty of non-winners in their number; even the world's greatest sire cannot operate at a 100 per cent strike-rate.
It might be mischievously pointed out here that the one Galileo yearling signed for by former Godolphin chief executive John Ferguson at auction before last year's splurge by his successors was Marina Gamba – a filly bought for 150,000gns who showed nothing in two starts for Gainsborough Stud and was sold for just 8,000gns at the conclusion of her inconsequential racing career.
Despite generally not buying Galileo stock from their breeders, Sheikh Mohammed's breeding operation at Darley remarkably managed to steal the march on Coolmore in developing the Galileo sire-line. This was achieved through the private purchase of champions New Approach and Teofilo from Jim Bolger – the man who bet the bank on Coolmore's wondersire and reaped lavish rewards when his judgement was proved correct.
New Approach (sire of six top-level winners) and Teofilo (14) are among the leading lights on the Darley roster along with Dubawi (35), Shamardal (19), Exceed And Excel (11) and Iffraaj (nine).
Considering the awesome firepower contained in the Darley stallion boxes, not to mention the numerous top-class racemares and producers bought for big money to join the sheikh's broodmare band down the years, it is hard to fathom why Godolphin have not achieved more homebred success – with or without the assistance of Galileo. The raw materials are there, so any deficiencies have existed elsewhere in the production line, it seems.
But this weekend's Qipco-sponsored 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas afford Godolphin the chance to show that their breeding and training operations are now working in harmony to produce the elite horses the vast sums of money spent on them demand they should be.
Trainer Charlie Appleby is set to field three Godolphin homebreds by Darley sires in the Newmarket Classic trading at 7-1 or shorter: nine-length Craven Stakes winner Masar – by New Approach, so a grandson of Galileo – in the 2,000 Guineas and Nell Gwyn Stakes scorer Soliloquy and Prix Marcel Boussac heroine Wild Illusion, both daughters of Dubawi, in the fillies' race.
Masar – out of a mare by another great Darley sire in Cape Cross – has an intriguing pedigree. His maternal great-granddam, the Oaks third Melikah, is a half-sister to Galileo so he is inbred 3x4 to Galileo and Melikah's Arc-winning dam Urban Sea. He is also inbred 3x4 to the influential sprinter Ahonoora, the damsire of both New Approach and Cape Cross.
Victory for Soliloquy or Wild Illusion, meanwhile, would no doubt bring the masterminds behind Godolphin's breeding enterprise tremendous satisfaction, as their pedigrees encapsulate the organisation's internationalist outlook.
Soliloquy is out of Dysphonia, an Australian-bred daughter of Lonhro who was Group 1-placed in her native land and was Group 3-placed at Lingfield after joining Saeed Bin Suroor, while Wild Illusion is out of the German-bred Monsun mare Rumh, winner of the Listed Ballymacoll Stud Stakes for Bin Suroor.
Of course, the trio are also evidence of the fortunes Sheikh Mohammed has spent in pursuit of Group 1 laurels.
New Approach must have cost a pretty penny, having been bought after his champion juvenile season, while Dysphonia entered the Darley fold as part of the lock, stock and barrel purchase of Bob Ingham's prestigious Woodlands Stud empire in Australia for A$500 million (an eye-watering £275m at today's rates) in 2008, the year New Approach landed the Derby. Rumh looks a snip in comparison at 300,000gns, her price-tag at Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale a year later.
Still, the sheikh might consider all that money well spent if it results in homebred, home-trained Classic winners, and he and his advisers can raise a wry smile if they come in the Guineas this weekend at the expense of better fancied rivals Gustav Klimt and Happily, both Coolmore-owned progeny of Galileo – the sire they said Godolphin couldn't do without.
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