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Godolphin are hoping Kite Wood and jockey Frankie Dettori can justify top billing against a strong field at the St Leger.
Godolphin are hoping Kite Wood and jockey Frankie Dettori can justify top billing against a strong field at the St Leger.

California dream for Delegator

Godolphin are not getting carried away with their recent success on the track, but the racing team patronised by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid can look forward to a golden campaign over the next few months.

Godolphin are not getting carried away with their recent success on the track, but the racing team patronised by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, can look forward to a golden campaign over the next few months. The Dubai-based operation arrived in Britain at the start of the European racing season at the earliest stage of their 17-year career. It seemed to have an effect on their string, with several high-profile flag-bearers such as Dubai Sheema Classic winner Eastern Anthem and Dubai Duty Free victor Gladiatorus flopping badly on their season debuts.

As soon as the sun came out in July and August though, the boys in royal blue flourished. Last month Godolphin sent out 38 winners worldwide, and their sensational run of form was capped last weekend with the scintillating performance by their recently-purchased colt, Delegator. Formerly trained by Brian Meehan, the son of Dansili won the Group Two Celebration Mile at Goodwood with a blistering display of acceleration under stable jockey Frankie Dettori.

"It was a very pleasing first run for the stable," said the Godolphin's racing manager, Simon Crisford. "There is always a danger that they won't settle in, but we all know how good Delegator was, and he showed a very nice turn of foot." Delgator highlighted that he had trained on from his juvenile days when he finished second to Sea the Stars - the subsequent Derby, Eclipse Stakes and Juddmonte Stakes winner - in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May.

But Crisford believes we have only seen the tip of the iceberg with regards to the colt's extreme ability. He said: "He'll stay in training next year because we feel he has an awfully long way to go to fulfil his career. He is real class." The last three winners of the Celebration Mile went on to Group One glory; last year's winner Raven's Pass, owned by Princess Haya of Jordan, went on to triumph at the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, a path mapped out for Delegator.

"It'll be the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes next at Ascot [on September 26] and then the Breeders' Cup Mile - that's the plan. Santa Anita would suit him well and that could be a good race for him." Although dreams of California are well in place, for racing aficionados that Ascot race tees up the intriguing possibility of a clash with Rip van Winkle, trainer Aidan O'Brien's classy miler. The potential encounter harkens back to Godolphin's pomp when they sparred regularly with horses sporting the dark blue colours sent out from O'Brien's Ballydoyle stables.

The head-to-head could come sooner than expected though. Next week Godolphin have pencilled in a twin-pronged assault on the St Leger, the final classic of England's season, run at Doncaster. The 232-year-old contest was the British Classic the team last won, with Rule Of Law in 2004. Godolphin rely on Kite Wood, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, and Mastery, the Italian Derby winner, who will be ridden by Ted Durcan. Crisford, although confident, is mindful about being too bullish in a race where O'Brien in mob-handed.

"He [Kite Wood] is heavily-favoured for the race, and he should be," he continued. "He will need to improve on what he has done on the racecourse so far, and it's not really a race that anyone can ever be too confident about winning." Even without Classic pretensions, Godolphin have plenty to look forward to over the next few months. Rio De La Plata, winner of the Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp on 2007, is almost ready to run having suffered a string of injuries.

Rio De La Plata, who was last seen finishing third to Tamayuz in the Abu Dhabi Sorouh Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly in July last year, is entered at Haydock tomorrow. Crisford added: "It has taken longer to get him ready than we had hoped but he is ready to run now." But it is the stable's juvenile brigade that has really stolen the headlines over the past few weeks. Last year Godolphin had just 19 two-year-old winners in Britain from 89 runners.

This year they already have sent out 27 winners from 96 runners. It is their highest number of juvenile winners in Britain since the 2005 season, when they saddled 37. "Poet's Voice, Al Zir, Emirates Dream, we've got three nice horses to look forward to in the coming months, and underneath that group we have got some promising juveniles that are coming through," Crisford said. Al Zir looks a likely candidate to provide the stable with further success. The American-bred colt topped the sales list at Kentucky's Fasig-Tipton in March for an eye-watering US$1.6million (Dh5.5m).

Bought by Sheikh Mohammed's agent, John Ferguson, Al Zir routed his 13 rivals by four lengths on his debut at Newmarket last month. There are high hopes for the son of Medaglia D'Oro, who is entered in Doncaster's Group Two Champagne Stakes next Saturday. Godolphin's seasonal ambitions worldwide are gathering pace, too. The team have entered seven horses in the Melbourne Cup. But they are also beginning to frame their thoughts for racing back home at the new Meydan complex.

"You've got to remember we are a year-round operation," Crisford concluded. @Email:griddle@thenational.ae

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