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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Godolphin storm back to centre stage with dazzling treble

Sheikh Mohammed after the Queen Anne Stakes
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Amid a changing political landscape there was a distinct shift in power on the racecourse on Tuesday when Royal Ascot was swamped by a sea of Godolphin blue and Churchill was forced from office.

When the manifesto declares an aspiration to be the pre-eminent force in the world of horseracing there can be few better outcomes than three wins, including two of the day's three Group 1 races, on day one of Royal Ascot.

It was an occasion fit for the 40th anniversary of Sheikh Mohammed's first winner in Britain, a day even Godophin's founder, accompanied by his young children, had not experienced before with his elite team.

Ribchester's victory in the Queen Anne Stakes and Barney Roy's triumph in the St James's Palace delivered the first Group 1 double on a single day at the royal meeting in Godolphin's history.

The last time the team enjoyed two Group 1 wins across the week was 13 years ago, when Refuse To Bend landed the Queen Anne and Papineau the Gold Cup.

These were results rivals Coolmore, with trainer Aidan O'Brien, have been delivering with greater regularity.

Nevertheless with Sound And Silence and Roussel sealing a one-two for Godolphin in the day's closing race, the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes, it was a significant enough statement to prompt Betway to cut the sheikh's operation to 1-2 (from 3-1) to have more winners than Coolmore at the meeting. After a blank day for Ballydoyle, Coolmore were 100-30 from 2-5.

Joe Osborne, who has replaced John Ferguson as Godolphin's interim group chief executive, said: "Especially with Sheikh Mohammed and his family here, these are the days that count for everybody, having two Group 1s and a first and second in the Windsor Castle.

"It's great to see the next generation collecting the trophies as well. I'm delighted for everybody. The boss deserves it and it's great to see him getting the reward on a day like this. We're always looking for results and this is what we're in it for."

It was left to the jockeys to sum up the mood in the camp, which recently lost the long-serving Ferguson when he resigned as chief executive following criticism from Saeed Bin Suroor published in the Racing Post.

It was Ferguson who bought both Ribchester and Barney Roy for Godolphin and was key in the appointments of William Buick, who rode Ribchester and Sound And Silence, and James Doyle, who partnered Barney Roy, as retained riders.

Buick said: "This is the biggest week in our sport, and to wear the royal blue of Godolphin for Sheikh Mohammed here is fantastic."

Doyle displayed most emotion, evident when he planted his index finger to his lips after guiding Barney Roy to the jockey's most significant win in Godolphin colours.

Having seen his 2,000 Guineas ambitions dashed when the colt stumbled at a vital stage of the Classic won by Churchill, Doyle was thrilled at gaining revenge.

Since last summer Doyle's opportunities in Group 1 races had diminished since being discarded by Bin Suroor, resulting in his spending some of his time riding for the team in Australia

"It was important today to get it right after the Guineas," he said. "It was great that Sheikh Mohammed was here on a massive day like today. I feel proud to do the horse justice and bring him home in a Group 1.

"The Guineas was a mess. It's a race I've watched back numerous times. The fact of the matter was I couldn't do much about it. It's nice to put the record straight. It was very frustrating, similar to when Kingman got beaten in the Guineas. He bolted up here, so the scenario is not unfamiliar.

"It feels massively good. I probably went a bit overboard in my celebrations. I've had Royal Ascot winners but this one was very important. It's been a while since a winner has meant that much to me."


It feels massively good. I probably went a bit overboard in my celebrations. I've had Royal Ascot winners but this one was very important

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