Comfortably the most embarrassing episode of the Flat season was the scandal that engulfed the Godolphin operation.
A scandal that ended the training career of Mahmood Al Zarooni, who was banned for eight years by the BHA for treating several Goldophin horses with anabolic steroids.
Equally unseemly has been the pursuit, in some quarters, of conspiracy theories suggesting that Goldophin’s chief, Sheikh Mohammed himself, must have known of the goings-on and had his own finger on the unlawful needles.
Theories that increased in excitement with the discovery of banned veterinary products later in the summer at Moorley Farm, a Newmarket location connected to the Sheikh’s Darley Stud operation.
No matter that a full BHA inquiry exposed Al Zarooni as the rogue employee solely responsible for the steroids scandal.
No matter that all the relevant authorities accepted that the seized products at Moorley Farm had nothing to do with Godolphin’s thoroughbred business.
Instead the conspiracists who, sadly, included one or two racing journalists, wanted the Sheikh’s head on a platter. And rather than get out there and dig up the evidence to nail him, they were happy to sit on their backsides and ensure that two plus two equalled five.
Not even clear and unequivocable statements from the 64-year-old Sheikh, denouncing the use of drugs in racing, have appeased the cynics. So, for the most part, the man to whom British racing owes so much has maintained a dignified silence.
His talking is now being done by his horses. And in particular by a bunch of highly-promising two-year-olds who have set the racetrack alight in recent weeks.
Such rich promise we have seen before from Godolphin -- and it has failed to translate into Classic glory. But surely there is more to come from these talented ‘magnificent seven’ juveniles, both in the coming weeks and next season --
A gorgeous-looking son of New Approach, whose home reputation was given away by trainer Saeed Bin Suroor’s decision to pitch him straight into a Listed contest for his debut. The decision was justified by a terrific performance to finish second to a smart winner in Mark Johnston’s solid yardstick, Somewhat, when only inexperience got the better of him. He followed up in grand style at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting, quickening and powering clear, again in Listed company, and will now be hard to oppose wherever he goes. Suroor reckons he’s up to contesting the Group One Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on 12th October, after which he definitely has the scope to make a top-class three-year-old over 1m and maybe further.
A tall, athletic colt with any amount of scope whom it was not hard to fall in love with at first sight before his debut in a hot maiden at Glorious Goodwood. He looked just the type to be unsuited to the quirky track, particularly from a wide draw, and was never in a position to win the race. But once Silvestre De Sousa pulled him to the outer in the final 2f, he did nothing but run on to finish never nearer, despite obvious greenness. Moving on to York and very different ground, Godolphin’s racing manager insisted he was still “mentally goofy”. But under an encouragingly positive ride by De Sousa, he bolted up, again against very decent rivals and again despite showing his inexperience. Once he grows up and matures, the son of Invincible Spirit out of a King’s Best dam could be some tool over 1m and further.
Most observers are at pains to brand this admirable filly as plain, on the small side and not sure to train on next term. But trainer Saeed Bin Suroor is confident the daughter of Shamardal will strengthen up over the winter and as a filly who hails from the family of Epsom Oaks and Irish Derby winner Balanchine, she could be very exciting. Even in defeat on her first three starts, it was obvious the potential was there, especially as two of her conquerors were Royal Ascot winners Kiyoshi and Berkshire. Since getting off the mark, she has thrived and could hardly have been more impressive when landing the Group Two May Hill Stakes at Doncaster with a telling turn of foot. Her next engagement could be the Group One Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket this coming Friday.
This is arguably the best horse inherited by Charlie Appleby, the Godolphin trainer to succeed the disgraced Mahmood Al Zarooni. Appleby does worry that he’s not the most robust of colts, but he is sure he boasts Group One ability, which he more or less proved when a close second in the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. He was collared on the line by Richard Hannon’s Toormore, who has since gone on to land a Group One contest in Ireland, but jockey Mickael Barzalona is convinced he’d have won on the Sussex Downs had he realised his mount possessed such a lethal turn of foot, thus tempting him to wait longer. Consequently, Barzalona was far from worried when plenty went wrong at Doncaster last time. He missed the kick, raced a bit keenly and was then caught on heels when the pace quickened. But his change of gear won him the race handsomely and he looks sure to develop into a serious colt next year. Some say he won’t stay the Guineas trip of 1m because he’s a son of sprinter Exceed And Excel, but the Group-One winning dam stayed 10f.
As a physical specimen, this expensive Charlie Appleby-trained son of Monsun cannot be faulted. He’s lengthy, he’s powerful and he’s scopy. At home, it has been a different story. He’s been lazy and immature. But that’s not necessarily a worry with middle-distance types like him. He still won nicely on debut and he stepped up in class with an even more impressive success at Newbury last weekend, despite giving 4lb to a smart runner-up. He threatened to get outpaced 2f out and then encountered traffic problems so severe that jockey Mickael Barzalona actually stood up in the plate and stopped riding for almost half a furlong. But when the colt was switched to find a gap on the stand rail, he was still able to regain his momentum and quicken up to get there on the line. Racing manager Simon Crisford was unusually bullish afterwards, convinced that, with normal improvement, Godolphin have a Derby horse on their hands.
This son of Exceed And Excel might have slipped under the radar of many punters. But I have been most taken by his two wins in albeit modest 7f events at Haydock, and I’m hoping he can open more eyes by completing a treble when going up in grade in the Group Three Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket this coming Thursday. His debut performance was one of genuine quality and while he was almost beaten when a 4/11 favourite in a three-runner contest next time, I was impressed by the way he defied adversity tp pull it out of the fire, showing an admirably tenacious attitude. The Elusive Quality dam is a half-sister to a Racing Post Trophy winner, so I wonder if that’s where he’ll end up too if he wins this week.
Charlie Appleby’s impeccably-bred daughter of Street Cry is another Godolphin two-year-old expected to be seen at Newmarket’s vastly under-rated Cambridgeshire meeting this week when she tackles stablemate Ihtimal in the Group One Fillies’ Mile. She’s sure to go well, although Appleby stresses she will come into her own next season when her pedigree should take her into middle-distance territory and, potentially, to the Epsom Oaks. Shes a half-sister to a 2m winner, while the dam is a half-sister to the brilliant Nathaniel, winner of the 2011 King George and the horse who got closest to beating the mighty Frankel. Such a potent combination of stamina and class was in evidence when she forged clear on debut at Newmarket in July -- and then again when she made all with consummate ease last time out at Kempton.
BY RICHARD ‘SCOOP’ SILVERWOOD (@ScoopSilverwood)