x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Horse racing: Godolphin wins latest showdown with Coolmore

Never have Godolphin inflicted such a devastating defeat on the Coolmore breeding operation that feeds Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle yard than when Encke saw off Camelot.

Mickael Barzalona rates Encke's run in the St Leger Stakes as thumb's up after the duo upset the favoured Camelot to upend Coolmore's hopes of claiming the Triple Crown.
Mickael Barzalona rates Encke's run in the St Leger Stakes as thumb's up after the duo upset the favoured Camelot to upend Coolmore's hopes of claiming the Triple Crown.

Several memorable head-to-heads have been contested down the years between runners from the two most powerful racing organisations in the world, but never have Godolphin inflicted such a devastating defeat on the Coolmore breeding operation that feeds Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle yard than when Encke saw off Camelot in the St Leger on Saturday.

In the build-up to the world's oldest Classic it was clear how much winning the Triple Crown with the unbeaten Camelot meant not only to O'Brien but to the trio of men behind Coolmore.

John Magnier, the driving force of Coolmore, had said in the parade ring how privileged he felt at even producing a horse that was in the running for the British Triple Crown. Derrick Smith, in whose purple and white silks Camelot raced, felt honoured, as did Michael Tabor.

And yet it was Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who snatched that dream away from them.

In the aftermath, Mahmoud Al Zarooni mentioned that he did not feel Encke was good enough to run in the St Leger after the colt only finished third at York last month.

Simon Crisford, the Dubai operation's racing manager, persuaded him otherwise, but in turn it was the founder of Godolphin who gave the green light.

"To be honest, it was His Highness's decision to run," Al Zarooni said.

"I disagreed and thought we should not. He was right. His Highness and I always disagree but His Highness is always right."

Al Zarooni's revelation suggests that after two years in the role, the Emirati handler feels confident enough to stand up to his powerful patron.

It also underlines that time and again Sheikh Mohammed is correct in his assessment of the British racing landscape.

Encke's dam was Shawanda, who originally raced for the Aga Khan, and Sheikh Mohammed bought her for the 2006 season for what was reportedly a "king's ransom".

But Shawanda never raced again after finishing sixth behind Hurricane Run in the 2005 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Her first foal was the unremarkable Genius Beast, who was eighth in the St Leger last season behind Masked Marvel. But whatever Sheikh Mohammed paid for Shawanda he must feel now it was a good piece of business.

Although he was not in attendance at Doncaster on Saturday, Sheikh Mohammed has targeted the St Leger ever since Oh So Sharp became the last horse to win the Fillies Triple Crown, in 1985.

Oh So Sharp provided him with his first Classic winner when she won the 1000 Guineas and, after adding the Oaks at Epsom, her place in Sheikh Mohammed's heart was assured when she won at Doncaster.

Since then, the Sheikh Mohammed's maroon-and-white colours have been carried to victory across Town Moor by Moonax (1994) and Shantou (1996), while Classic Cliche (1995), Nedawi (1998), Mutafaweq (1999), Rule of Law (2004), Mastery (2009) and now Encke have scored in Godolphin's royal blue silks.

Encke's victory also further cemented the growing relationship between Al Zarooni and Mickael Barzalona.

Barzalona has ridden 25 winners for Al Zarooni during the current British Turf season but only seven for Saaed bin Suroor.

It is clear where the 21-year-old Frenchman's loyalties lie, and judging by their latest success he has nailed his colours to the right mast.

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