The private stable of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid reasserted their dominance on the European circuit at Royal Ascot, writes Geoffrey Riddle.
Godolphin get back in the saddle
Royal Ascot 2012 will always be characterised by the two contrasting, but no less enthralling, performances by Frankel and Black Caviar, but in the context of the European Turf season it was the moment when Godolphin answered their critics.
Godolphin were crowned champion owners after the Dubai-based stable accumulated prize-money of £451,749 (Dh2.5 million).
Their coffers were swelled primarily by the victories of Colour Vision in the Gold Cup on Thursday and Tha'ir in the Chesham Stakes on Saturday. That Opinion Poll followed home Colour Vision, and Lovely Pass was third in the Chesham, further aided their cause.
It was the second successive year that the private stable of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has topped the standings. The European season has been a tough one for Godolphin and they could not have asserted themselves in a more timely manner.
Frankie Dettori's reaction on edging clear of Mickael Barzalona in the Gold Cup after a barging match to the finish line spoke volumes. As he passed the winning post he punched the air. He then raised both hands and pointed his two index fingers into the sky. There was no doubt in the minds of the public, Sheikh Mohammed and possibly even Barzalona, who is still number one.
In the ensuing Stewards' inquiry Dettori put up an eloquent and confident defence, outlining he had only "brushed Mr Barzalona's horse for a stride".
His young rival had been allocated a translator, but when asked if he had anything to add to Dettori's account no translation was needed. "Non," came the terse response.
For Saeed bin Suroor Colour Vision's victory was a much-needed fillip. Godolphin's long-standing trainer has become an increasingly marginalised figure on British racecourses as Mahmoud Al Zarooni's star continues to rise. In the trainers' standings both were locked on 17 wins apiece yesterday, with bin Suroor marginally ahead on prize-money, but Colour Vision was his first Group 1 winner in Britain since Poet's Voice won the Queen Elizabeth's Stakes in September 2010.
"You have to be patient," bin Suroor smiled, "this is a very tough game."
It is any wonder how Silvestre de Sousa feels, however. The Brazilian jockey was just pipped to the British jockey's title by Paul Hanagan on the final day last season but he is not even in the first two in his team.
The speculation in the British media surrounding jockey bookings at Godolphin is at saturation point and when quizzed Sheikh Mohammed, who was in the royal box when Queen Elizabeth II's horse Estimate won the Queen's Vase on Friday, simply said: "I don't care [what people think], I have my own ideas. We need more jockeys for Godolphin."
Princess Haya of Jordan's two successes with Joviality in the Windsor Forest Stakes and Newfangled in the Albany Stakes helped William Buick towards his total of five victories during the week. He was cruelly denied the leading rider's title when Ryan Moore won with Simenon in the Queen Alexandra Stakes in the final race of the meeting on Saturday.
Moore also had five victories but won on countback, while Buick's relationship with John Gosden saw the handler crowned the champion trainer of the week.
It emerged yesterday that Black Caviar suffered muscle tears during her narrow victory in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on Saturday.
According to the British Horseracing Authority's (BHA) handicapper, Black Caviar ran at least 10lbs below the form that saw her rated the world's best sprinter.
Peter Moody, her trainer, gave Black Caviar a precautionary X-ray yesterday morning before she entered quarantine.
"She is very tender up in her hind-quarters but it is restricted to soft tissue damage," he said.
Her performance was supposed to bookend Frankel's stunning opening to the meeting on Tuesday, when he won the Queen Anne Stakes by 11 lengths.
Already officially the world's best horse, Frankel was rated after the race by the BHA handicappers 1lb below Dancing Brave, the 1986 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner. He could break that threshold during the rest of the summer.
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