The war between two of Flat racing’s great powerhouses – Coolmore/Ballydoyle and Darley/Godolphin – has long been winding down. In 2005, Sheikh Mohammed forbade his bloodstock purchasers in seeking produce of Coolmore stallions, but relations between the pair have seemingly never been better 13 years on with news confirming this week that Godolphin have sent some of their finest mares to Coolmore Champion Stallion Galileo for the first time.
While competition on the track and producing world-class stallions and broodmares will obviously continue, for bloodstock fans, and bloodstock producers who can afford Galileo, this is exciting news on several fronts.
Looking back firstly, Sheikh Mohammed’s self-imposed ban on Coolmore stock saw his own operation declare war on itself, with hindsight. Whatever his reasons were for doing so, at the time, even a man with the wealth of knowledge as Dubai’s ruler couldn’t have foreseen the impact it would have on the contrasting fortunes of Coolmore and Godolphin.
Just two years before Sheikh Mohammed’s orders, Coolmore prematurely lost one of their most influential stallions in Danehill while their generational defining sire Sadler’s Wells was coming to the end of his long and successful career. Between the pair, they were Champion Sires in Great Britain and Ireland from 1992-2007.
At the time of his 2005 decision, Sheikh Mohammed could maybe be forgiven for thinking, from a stallion perspective, with the above great Coolmore duo ‘out of the way’ and with Godolphin still winning major races on the track, his operation could continue to compete and win major Group 1s globally while also potentially closing the gap on Coolmore in the stallion shed. After all, Coolmore supremo John Mangier once said horses like Sadler’s Wells “only come around every 50 years” and Darley, in 2005, had stallion potential and talent of their own in the likes Cape Cross, Halling and Machiavellian all standing at Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket.
Furthermore, on the track in and around the time, the likes of Best Of The Bests, Dubai Destination, Dubawi, Fantastic Light, Grandera, Refuse To Bend, Street Cry and Sulamani were all competing and winning at the highest level around the world for Godolphin. These all had potential to maybe even be Darley’s own Danehill or Sadler’s Wells.
What no one could foresee however, was the emergence of Galileo as a stallion going on to better the astounding exploits of his own father Sadler’s Wells, in terms of siring Group 1 winners at least. With Aidan O’Brien, who was already established as a trainer, and his Ballydoyle team behind the training of Galileo progeny, what transpired was a perfect storm. It was a storm that simply blew Godolphin away on the racetrack.
From around the time Sheikh Mohammed made his boycotting call on Coolmore, Galileo was only getting better as a stallion and Aidan O’Brien, even with all his success, was getting better as a trainer. On the track, Godolphin just couldn’t compete and a comparison between Coolmore and Godolphin victories in British and Irish Classics and other major races from 2005 onwards tells the story.
For Darley/Godolphin making inroads into the Coolmore juggernaut maybe seemed plausible in Sheikh Mohammed’s own mind in 2005, after all, what were the chances of Coolmore getting another sire like Sadler’s Wells so soon? Slim according to John Mangier, but they came back-to-back for Coolmore at a time when Sheikh Mohammed abandoned an unsinkable ship.
The Coolmore boycott is now a thing of the past and racing fans should be buoyed by the operation’s latest news. This comes on top of other Darley/Godolphin significant positives of recent seasons in housing a sire of the ability of Dubawi, a trainer of the calibre in Charlie Appleby and employing a pair of world-class jockeys in William Buick and James Doyle. Indeed, the operation reached Flat racing’s pinnacle in winning this season’s Derby at Epsom with Masar.
The multiple omnishambles of season’s past with little Classic success, head scratching jockey juggling, the Mahmood Al Zarooni drugs case and the departure of key figures in Simon Crisford and John Ferguson now look firmly behind the Boys in Blue and results may improve further now they team up with Galileo. In this whole process, I wouldn’t write off Saeed bin Suroor either.
Among the mares sent to Galileo include the brilliant Eastern Joy, who has produced a top-class colt in Thunder Snow, among others. Ferdoos, whose has already produced Group 1 winner Nezwaah is another of note along with 2011 Oaks winner Dancing Rain. More recent and familiar names to be covered include Lucida, Lumiere and Usherette while first-time mothers Sobetsu and the recently retired Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf Wuheida are two more.
It should also be said that the change of heart by Darley has led to a number of Coolmore mares visiting Dubawi, a stallion who would be Champion Sire four of the last five seasons if Galileo wasn’t around. Alice Springs, Bracelet, Chicquita, Seventh Heaven and Was have all been covered by the son of Dubai Millennium.
Dubai Millennium of course, was probably the best racehorse Darley and Godolphin ever produced and in his only crop he gave us Dubawi. Sadly, for Sheikh Mohammed and racing he died as a five-year-old. Who knows how Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley and Godolphin operations would’ve faired over the last 13 years if his death could’ve been prevented?
Those questions will never be answered, but others may, now Godolphin are using and buying Coolmore stallions again, most notably Galileo. Some that spring to my mind are:
Who will get to train Godolphin’s Galileo progeny, Charlie Appleby, Saeed bin Surror, or John Gosden?
Will the gap between Ballydoyle and Godolphin now close on the track?
How much of an influence in Godolphin buying Coolmore stock was down to Sheikh Mohammed’s Irish advisor Joe Osborne?
How will Aidan O'Brien fair training progeny of Dubawi?
There are many questions in what is a new chapter for Coolmore/Ballydoyle and Darley/Godolphin in what looks an exciting time to be a Flat racing fan.