x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Goldikova proves her calibre

The four-year-old shows blistering turn of foot and trainer Head lavishes praise for determination while great Godolphin hope Gladiatorus flops.

Goldikova puts up the most stunning display of her career to take the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville. Gladitorius, on the other hand, disappoints.
Goldikova puts up the most stunning display of her career to take the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville. Gladitorius, on the other hand, disappoints.

DEAUVILLE // Godolphin's incredible winning momentum in August was halted dramatically yesterday when Gladiatorus flopped badly in the Group One Prix Jacques Le Marois. The Dubai-based operation had built up a head of steam in recent weeks. Trainer Saeed Bin Suroor had sent out 21 winners from just 48 runners in the 14 days that led up to yesterday's high-class contest.

Despite that streak of stable form though, Gladiatorus could not match the heights that he reached when winning the Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba five months ago, trailing in last behind scintillating winner, Goldikova. With Frankie Dettori in the saddle for the first time since the colt was transferred into Godolphin colours, confidence was high. Even the tactics were different, with the Italian opting for a more restrained approach in contrast to the forcing tactics that had served Gladiatorus so well during the Dubai carnival.

It didn't work, and when the contest began to hot up in the final three furlongs, Gladiatorus dropped away tamely. "It is incredibly disappointing," said a crestfallen Bin Suroor afterwards. "He had the class and was in good form before the race." Goldikova showed what a high-class filly she is with this latest crushing victory. Not content with winning the Prix Rothschild against her own sex over the same course and distance a fortnight ago, the Freddie Head-trained four-year-old showed a blistering turn of foot.

Head, who also trains Marchand D'Or, last year's European sprint champion, was so taken by his filly's performance that he believes she is the best he has trained. "What more can I say?" he exclaimed. "It is unbelievable. She has run as fast as she can and it is great. She has to be the best I have ever trained." The filly was mulish at the start. Like a diva, she stamped and huffed as four stall handlers tried to forcibly push her into the stalls. As soon as the gates opened her regular pacemaker, Only Green, ridden by Davvy Bonilla, acted as the hare to try to ensure a decent pace.

As the field came to the two furlong pole, Only Green began to suffer and Goldikova's regular jockey, Olivier Peslier, asked for an injection of pace. The request was answered immediately and Goldikova bounded clear in a matter of strides. So emphatic was the victory that Peslier even had time to admire the fluid movements of his filly on the big screen television as the pair powered towards the finishing post.

"My other runner didn't have enough gas to make the pace so she had to come early," Head continued. "She can do anything. "She has never liked the stalls since the beginning, and is a little bit naughty at them, but that is her only bad point." The Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Aqlaam finished six-lengths back in second, with John Gosden's Virtual about the same distance behind in third. Things didn't get any better for Godolphin, either.

Just 50 minutes later Eastern Anthem, who was so impressive when winning the Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night, could not land a telling blow in the Rhinland-Pokal, the Group One race over 12 furlongs in Cologne. Ridden by Ahmed Ajtebi, the five-year-old was plum last for most of the race before picking up well to finish third behind German three-year-old Wiener Walzer and Getaway in a photo-finish.

The Dubai-based operation will not have time to stew on these results, however. York beckons tomorrow, and the four-day Ebor meeting on the Knavesmire offers them a chance at redemption. Bin Suroor has several colts entered tomorrow, ready to lift the gloom. Mastery lines up in the Group Two Great Voltigeur Stakes, the traditional prep race for those aiming at the St Leger at Doncaster, the final English Classic of the season.

The last time Godolphin tasted English Classic success was in 2004, when Rule Of Law won the Great Voltigeur en route to victory in the St Leger. It is a path that Bin Suroor has mapped out for Mastery, who has already won at Group level courtesy of his win in the Italian Derby at the Capannelle in May. As a juvenile, Rule Of Law also won the Acomb Stakes, and Bin Suroor is dual-handed in the seven furlong Group 3 contest with Poet's Voice and Vale Of York.

Poet's Voice produced a breathless display of acceleration at Newmarket last month, winning his maiden by an astonishing 10 lengths. He has a raft of high-profile entries, including next year's Derby and could pick up the Godolphin juggernaut once more. sports@thenational.ae