Weekend Review – Blue is the Colour

It seems that every week we are talking about “shock” or “surprise” winners of the classics and last weekend was no exception on the face of it, with Masar winning the Derby at a starting price of 16/1! This victory gave Sheikh Mohammed’s owners Godolphin operation a first Derby victory in their instantly recognisable royal blue silks.

Sheikh Mohammed had tasted victory on two occasions in the Derby, firstly in 1995 when Lammtarra for Saeed Bin Suroor and Walter Swinburn and then again in 2008 with New Approach, the sire of Masar. Both of these victories, however, were technically under different ownership with Lammtarra owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew and New Approach by his wife Princess Haya of Jordan.

There has been a fantastic and well-documented rivalry through the years between Godolphin and Coolmore, on the racecourse, in the breeding sheds and in the sales ring. In recent seasons though it seemed that Coolmore had become the dominant force in racing, with Godolphin playing second and third fiddle when it came to the key races.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying there is a changing of the guard but in the last two or three season Godolphin have once again become a major force to be reckoned with. Perhaps this can be attributed to Charlie Appleby being their primary trainer much to the frustration of longtime trainer Saeed Bin Suroor.

Following the success, Appleby was understandably delighted saying “All I could think of in the last furlongs was that I wanted to be the first trainer to win the Derby in the Godolphin blue”

Masar may not have been at the top of everyone’s list of potential Derby winners on Saturday morning, myself included but should he have been an outsider who was chalked up at 25’s in the morning?

I don’t think so, the New Approach colt admittedly had a very disappointing start to the season finishing 10th of 13 in a dirt race in Meydan. This was followed by an impressive win in the Craven at Newmarket and having finished third, less than two lengths behind Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas on his previous start, surely William Buick’s mount should not have left the starting stalls at Epsom twenty times the price of Saxon Warrior?

Saxon Warrior came into the race with an enviable everything really, the son of Deep Impact is out of the Group One-winning mare Maybe and was unbeaten in four starts coming into the Derby which included the Racing Post Trophy and 2000 Guineas. As is the case with pretty much any guineas winner, he was labelled as the next potential Triple Crown winner, which as everyone knows is incredibly difficult to achieve.

All of the above attributed to Saxon Warrior’s prohibitive starting price and maybe things would have been different with a better draw and prompt start with Aidan O’Brien saying:

I think he was a little bit in awe of the whole thing, really. He’s a baby horse, really, and it’s only his fifth run and it’s the most complicated track he’s had to handle. We’ll look forward to him the next time.”

There is no doubt that Saxon Warrior is a high-class horse that will be winning more Group One’s, with his most likely target, begin the Irish Derby at the Curragh, but we need to get away from simply seeing “11111” beside a horse and make assumptions that they will win again. The trainer Mark Johnston who’s Dee Ex Bee was runner-up in the Derby, has shown time and time again that the majority of horses love racing.

There can be a fear amongst trainers and owners about their horses getting beaten, especially at the higher level where the breeding shed and post racing commercial value is a major factor. The phrase “unbeaten” beside a stallion has a nice ring to it when trying to sell nominations. This is totally understandable but it occasionally means that racing enthusiasts don’t see their favourite horses as often as they would like.

The Irish Derby seems to also be the next target for the winner Masar according to Charlie Appleby for a potential rematch with Saxon Warrior:

“We’ll see how he is and how he comes out of the race, but he stayed the mile and a half well and I think the Irish Derby is the obvious place to go.”

One horse that won’t be running in the Irish Derby is Hazapour, Dermot Weld’s charge travelled better than most in the hands of Frankie to the 2-furlong pole but weakened late on to finish fifth. The initial impression was that the Shamardal colt didn’t stay and this was confirmed afterwards: Hazapour didn’t stay…We’ll see how he comes out of the race before making plans. He won’t be going for the Irish Derby and we’ll be looking at races over a mile and a quarter.”

Aidan O’Brien threw five darts at the Oaks on Friday in a bid for his seventh victory in the race and it was Forever Together that came home in front of her eight rivals. If any other trainer had Forever Together in their harness I would say it was amazing that in the process of winning the Oaks she was also shedding her maiden tag. But Aidan just seems to have an incredible record with fillies.

The daughter of Galileo was only having her fourth career start in the Oaks and seemed to really enjoy the step up in distance, the further they went the further clear she was going. This full sister to Fillies Mile winner Together Forever has a very progressive profile and looks sure to add to this first victory.

The beaten favourite in the Oaks was Wild Illusion who as it transpired would have given Charlie Appleby and Godolphin an Oaks/Derby double. The Dubawi filly lost little in defeat and her trainer reported that:

“Seems in good shape….We’ll see how she is in the next 10 days and then decide whether we go for the Prix de Diane or go to Royal Ascot for the Ribblesdale.”

Also at Epsom on Friday, we were treated to a thrilling Coronation Cup where long odds-on favourite Cracksman scrambled home to beat the game front-runner Salouen. It was far from vintage Cracksman with Frankie never looking overly happy with last season’s Champion Stakes winner. A head was the margin of victory with Cracksman undoubtedly having an off day.

John Gosden revealed afterwards that:

“Cracksman is fine this morning after his win in the Coronation Cup but it turns out that he had a bit of an ordeal in the stalls…. He gave his head an almighty whack, which is why he missed the break.”

A trip to Royal Ascot for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes seems next for the son of Frankel. Sylvester Kirk had mixed emotions following Salouen’s valiant second and the Arc is the colt’s long-term target this season with Kirk saying:

“The owner would like to go to the Arc and we’ll try to find the best route.”

Saxon Warrior may have failed in his bid to give Deep Impact a Derby winner but less than 24 hours later Study Of Man had no such issues when winning the French Derby for Pascal Bary and the Niarchos family, who were enjoying a second classic in the space of a week following Alpha Centauri’s victory in the Irish 1000 Guineas.

Aidan O’Brien saddled four runners in the contest but had to settle for sixth place with Hunting Horn. James Tate’s, Hey Gaman who was runner-up in the French 2000 Guineas looked set to play a major part in the race until fading late on.

Connections had no concrete plans for the winner but Niarchos racing manager Alan Cooper indicated that the Arc may now be under consideration.

“I can’t say it’s the race we’re definitely going to go for but Stephane did say months ago this horse could be a good one for Longchamp in the first week of October,” said Cooper.

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