Falcon swoops for Nottingham glory

Island Falcon looks another potentially nice sort for Godolphin, but it might be asking too much to follow in Adayar’s footsteps – last year’s winner of the Golden Horn Maiden Stakes at Nottingham.

Trained by Saeed bin Suroor while Adayar is handled by his Godolphin colleague Charlie Appleby, Island Falcon (11-4 favourite) had a made a promising debut at Goodwood when third just over a fortnight ago.

The race was actually delayed for over five minutes by the eventual winner as it transpired he needed a new shoe having arrived at the start.

He clearly showed no ill effects in the race, though, and he was fairly prominent early on despite breaking from stall 14.

Percy Jones was allowed to dictate a steady pace before Pat Cosgrave made his challenge fully two furlongs from home.

Martyn Meade’s Barley was the last to challenge and showed a smart turn of foot, but a photograph showed he had just failed by a short head.

The race is named after John Gosden’s brilliant Derby, Eclipse, Irish Champion Stakes and Arc winner Golden Horn, who made a wining debut in the contest in 2014, and last year’s winner also won the Derby as well as the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes this summer.

Cosgrave told Racing TV: “He had a nice run the first day and he’s probably improved.

“He had a tough draw today. I had to come three wide but I knew he’d stay well.

“I was probably there plenty soon enough but I had no chance to go, when I did nothing could take me any further.

“He did it the hard way, he’s got a good heart. I couldn’t fault him. He’s well-made, I’m sure he’ll be OK next year and while he’s not overly big, he’s big enough to train on.

“I like him, he could have got beat when the second came to him but he stuck it out good.”

Monday Musings: Newmarket Rejuvenation

I had intended writing copiously 24 hours after my first wholly enjoyable, nay rejuvenating, visit to Newmarket racecourse for two years about a brief conversation of which I was the sole observer, writes Tony Stafford. The conversants were those two genial giants of our sport, Charlie Appleby and Aidan O’Brien, but I will leave that until later.

It was in the evening during a catch-up scan through the Saturday results that I noted the 7.30 p.m. race at Chelmsford was called the Now Never Beaten By SP Handicap (Division 1).

I’ve noticed that race title before, marvelling that the object of so much ridicule and indeed suspicion in its Betfred-owned days between 2011 and 2019 had been apparently transformed upon its acquisition and operation by the group formerly known as Alizeti Capital but now UK Tote Group.

Their intention, I remembered reading, was exactly that - to ensure the Tote returns were never to be bettered by SP and to help grow its new version to be of financial benefit to the sport.

In its rubric, Tote Group UK says it is “now owned by a group of racehorse owners and breeders who are passionate about the sport, backed by people who own and train over 1,000 horses worldwide.

“We’re united by a shared desire to secure British racing’s finances for generations to come through a revitalised Tote”. Glowing contributions in that notice in support of UK Tote Group have come from Sir Anthony McCoy, John Gosden, Richard Thompson of Cheveley Park Stud, and the Racehorse Owners Association.

I scrutinised all 36 races run in the UK on Saturday and in 24 of them, including the 7.30 at Chelmsford, SP was better than the returned Tote price about the winner. Course and betting shop punters would not have benefited, but I am reassured that online Tote odds backers will have been, according to the publicity (admittedly confusing) blurb to the tune of a maximum £500 per bet. [The race title referred to, the online arm of the tote]

The three regular backers I know whom I thought might have been able to confirm this as correct all were unable to do so as they all three to coin a theme “had my account with the Tote closed years ago.” They all habitually try to get a few hundred quid on a horse. One big firm, asked for £500 each way on a horse the other day, offered to take £2.80 each way. Still theirs is a happy slogan and I wish anything that might correct the joke level of prize money in the lower reaches of the sport, a potential blessing. But as my three friends I’m sure would say: “Don’t hold your breath.”

I mentioned Charlie and Aidan’s very amicable chat earlier at Newmarket soon after the Darley Dewhurst Stakes victory of unbeaten Native Trail and the Irishman was glowing in his congratulations to his younger English counterpart.

Three wins on the day had already pushed Appleby past Andrew Balding at the top of the trainers’ championship standings for the first time and Aidan admired both Native Trail and the less exposed Coroebus, easy winner of the Group 2 Autumn Stakes.

Where Native Trail was a breeze-up buy for 210,000gns in the spring, able to make his debut in early July and now was making it a perfect four-for-four, there is no Godolphin blood in him, being by Oasis Dream out of an Observatory mare – Juddmonte all the way.

Coroebus meanwhile is Godolphin through and through: by Dubawi, their version of Coolmore’s great stallion Galileo, out of a mare by Galileo’s first superstar, the unbeaten Teofilo.

O’Brien remarked on both colts’ physicality, to which Appleby replied: “Coroebus is 540 kilos and Native Trail is 545, and that’s as heavy as Adayar who you know is a monster!”  Formidable for two-year-olds you would agree!

The wins brought Appleby some elbow room at the top of the table and with a dearth of major and valuable races to come save next Saturday’s Qatar Champions Day at Ascot and the Vertem Futurity (just over £100k)  at Doncaster the following weekend, opportunities are somewhat polarised.

Aidan told me he plans to run his top juvenile Luxembourg in the Vertem Futurity and expects that outstanding Camolot colt to go first in 2022 for the 2000 Guineas where he will almost certainly encounter Native Trail and Coroebus.

While Appleby has been inching his way up to and past Balding, who has had a season that must have surprised him with more than £4 million already in the satchel, he will be aware that John and Thady Gosden, who started slowly this year, are still in there pitching.

Balding has ten entries for Ascot, but only a couple, both 8-1 shots – Invite in the Fillies and Mares race, and Alcohol Free in the QE II – have better than outside chances. Appleby’s hopes from six entries centre, should he run, on Derby winner Adayar, about whom 3-1 is probably a little tight after his Arc exertions.

But the Gosden ten, with six in the closing Balmoral Handicap - Gosden senior dearly wants to win that race – include four serious darts at the biggest prizes of the day.

Mishriff, saved from the Arc in favour of the Champion Stakes, is 6-4 favourite for the £680k Champion. Palace Pier vies for favouritism with improving Baeed in the £623,000 to the winner QE II. Additionally, Free Wind is 7-2 for the £283,000 Fillies and Mares, and Stradivarius, should he renew hostilities with Trueshan, is second favourite behind that horse in the similarly-endowed Stayers’ race.

The Gosdens lurk around £500,000 behind Appleby and, unless such as Snowfall and maybe something else can edge out Mishriff, or The Revenant, back with a near miss at Longchamp, could possibly again unseat Palace Pier with Baeed’s help. Otherwise it seems a dominant position for a hat-trick for Clarehaven. It looks theirs to lose.

While that stealthy challenge in the trainers’ race has suddenly crystallised, the jockeys’ battle between incumbent Oisin Murphy and his nearest challenger William Buick has been a constant side-show most of this year.

It’s easy to portray this tussle as between Mr Naughty and Mr Squeaky Clean and certainly Oisin Murphy’s second failed breath test, which for the moment merely cost him one day’s riding at Newmarket on Friday, has done nothing for his reputation.

The jockey stressed that the alcohol reading while exceeding the permitted limit for being allowed to ride a racehorse was below that excluding him from driving a car. Great! Only slightly pissed then!

He dominated talk at Newmarket on Saturday, most people saying that for a repeat offence the case should get a proper investigation and the inside story at Newmarket on Saturday was that an inquiry will be held at the BHA today.

A one-day slap on the wrist, if that is all that happens for the offence, seems inappropriate to me. Suppose he hadn’t been tested, thus was free to ride on Friday and had caused danger to other jockeys and their horses. That puts the six-month ban (now ended) for promising apprentice Benoit de la Sayette when he was found in breach of the drug rules back in the spring in some context.

In the end, of course, Murphy was free to ride Buzz in the Cesarewitch and he gave the one-time Hughie Morrison horse a peach of a ride, one befitting of a champion, to make it a third win in the race for Nicky Henderson.

Buzz came to deny Burning Victory and William Buick in the dying strides, maintaining his margin over his rival to eight, when had the result been turned around it would have been only six. Charlie isn’t giving up on his jockey though and plans to run plenty of talented maidens between now and D Day on Saturday. Burning Victory of course was only Mullins’ second string but it would have been a nice result for readers of this column who may have noticed my frequent mentions of the mare in recent weeks.

So we had a seven-year-old winner who hadn’t raced on the Flat for two years beating a mare who had never previously run in a Flat race either in England or Ireland outclassing 30 other stayers. Burning Victory’s defeat and the no show of favourite M C Muldoon stopped a Willie Mullins four-timer in this contest.

Why are jumps trainers so good at winning on the Flat? We’ve known about these two for decades, but another younger member of their profession, an Irishman based in Gloucestershire, is showing similar tendencies.

Until 16-year-old daughter Fern attained that age in the summer, her father Fergal O’Brien was so disinterested in Flat racing that he had only winner from 50 runners in sporadic seasons from 2013 to 2019.

Fern, mentored by Fergal’s assistant and partner Sally Randell, a former star military race rider, won at the first time of asking a couple of days after her birthday and now stands on four wins from eight rides for her father as a lady amateur. His other 16 runners have yielded another four victories, including smart hurdler Gumball making all in a decent staying handicap at York on Saturday and Polish getting home first in a jump jockeys’ Flat race at Goodwood yesterday.

That makes it eight from 24 and a strike rate of 33%, a figure the Gosdens, Balding, William Haggas and the rest would kill for. And none of them has 55 jump winners since the end of April either!

  • TS   

Al Suhail not for passing in Challenge Stakes

Al Suhail has always been highly regarded and stamped his class on the Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes at Newmarket.

Second in the Autumn Stakes in his juvenile year, he was a Listed winner at three and expected to be a major player at the Dubai Carnival last spring.

Charlie Appleby tried to stretch him out to nine furlongs and the first attempt went well, when narrowly beaten by Lord Glitters, but he was stone last behind Lord North in the Dubai Turf.

Barring a win at Haydock this summer the four-year-old was becoming slightly disappointing, but was still sent off the 3-1 favourite for the Group Three over seven furlongs.

The result was never in doubt, with William Buick bouncing him into an early lead, pulling further clear over a furlong out and eventually running out a three-and-a-half-length winner over With Thanks, who had won at Ascot last weekend.

“We’ve seen what ability he has got throughout his career, but being brutally honest Will gave him a great ride because it was a tactic I came up with within the last 24 hours,” said Appleby.

“In the past we’ve seen him travel and you think it’s only a matter of pressing the button, but then he falters so I said if he doesn’t want to go by them let’s see if they can get by him.

“He’s done it well today and it all worked out. It’s no surprise he’s won like that. Will made his mind up for him and I knew he’d find once Will gave him the office.”

Al Suhail was a cut above his rivals in the Challenge Stakes
Al Suhail was a cut above his rivals in the Challenge Stakes (Tim Goode/PA)

On plans he said: “I don’t think he’s one for the Breeders’ Cup as I don’t think he’s mentally strong enough for something like that.

“He’ll go back out to Dubai, we saw him out there last year when we tried to step him up to nine furlongs but we’ll go the usual – Al Fahidi and Zabeel Mile.

“There’s even a new programme out there on turf and there’s a new seven-furlong race on Super Saturday that is worth $300,000.”

Appleby and Buick later doubled up with top weight Siskany in the bet365 Old Rowley Cup.

Siskany pulls nicely clear to win the Old Rowley Cup
Siskany pulls nicely clear to win the Old Rowley Cup (Tim Goode/PA)

Gelded since running well at Royal Ascot and Goodwood, Siskany became Appleby’s 100th winner on the Rowley Mile.

“I bet you didn’t know that, did you?” he said.

“In truth I had no idea until someone told me, but it’s nice all the same. Most importantly, this lad has been very consistent, and we put him away after Goodwood because he deserved a rest.

“This race fitted in well. He enjoyed his break – and we felt he was a nice, progressive handicapper who might make Listed or Group Three level. He’ll go out to Dubai.”

Godolphin aces in Joel Stakes showdown

Benbatl and Master Of The Seas clash in a fascinating renewal of the Unibet “You’re On” Joel Stakes at Newmarket on Friday.

The pair are both owned by Godolphin but represent different stables, with Saeed bin Suroor training Benbatl and Master Of The Seas in the care of the red-hot Charlie Appleby.

They are also from completely different generations, with Benbatl, who has performed with great credit all over the world, firmly in the older horse bracket, while Master Of The Seas has been off since finishing runner-up in the 2000 Guineas to Poetic Flare.

Benbatl returned from almost a year off to be narrowly beaten in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood and he can be expected to come on for the run.

“He has done well since his last race and he’s in good form,” said Bin Suroor.

“He ran a big race in the Celebration Mile after missing the break from the stalls.

“This has been his target since Goodwood and his last piece of work was very good.

“It’s going to be a good race, but we are looking to see a big run from him.”

Master Of The Seas (far side) was caught close home by Poetic Flare (white) in the Guineas
Master Of The Seas (far side) was caught close home by Poetic Flare (white) in the Guineas (David Davies/PA)

Appleby is chasing another big prize having won the Derby and King George with Adayar, Irish Derby, Grand Prix de Paris and St Leger with Hurricane Lane and a host of valuable prizes in North America last weekend.

Appleby expects him to come forward for the run, with bigger prizes on the horizon.

“Master Of The Seas was unfortunate to meet with a setback after the 2,000 Guineas but his preparation into this has gone well and we are very pleased with him,” Appleby told

“There will be improvement to come on whatever he does here as we have an eye on the Breeders’ Cup or Champions Day afterwards.”

Andrew Balding has a fascinating new recruit
Andrew Balding has a fascinating new recruit (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Andrew Balding runs an interesting new recruit in Queen Supreme.

She was a top-class mare in South Africa, winning at the highest level, but faces a baptism of fire on her UK debut.

She has the assistance of Ryan Moore in the saddle and the rider told Betfair: “This is her first run since January, but she was a Grade One winner in South Africa when trained by Mike De Kock.

“She would have had a tough trip over here and would have had to spend time in quarantine. She’s running against two very good horses in Master Of The Seas and Benbatl so it’s a tough ask, but we’ll see how she goes.”

Roger Varian’s Laneqash, the consistent Sir Busker, previous Queen Anne winner Accidental Agent, Charlie Hills’ Pogo and Marcus Tregoning’s Perotto, who ran at Goodwood on Wednesday, complete the field.

Hot favourite Hurricane Lane out to deliver Godolphin’s seventh St Leger

Hurricane Lane is set to go off the short-priced Cazoo St Leger favourite as he seeks to give Godolphin a seventh victory in the Doncaster Classic.

Classic Cliche carried the famous royal blue silks to victory back in 1995 – and further success has followed with Nedawi and Mutafaweq in 1998 and 1999, Rule Of Law in 2004, Mastery in 2009 and Encke, who denied Camelot the Triple Crown in 2012.

Victory will draw Sheikh Mohammed’s operation level with Archibald Hamilton, the 9th Duke Of Hamilton, who was one of the earliest winners of the world’s oldest Classic in 1786 with Paragon.

Hurricane Lane began this season somewhat under the radar, with just a Newmarket novice win to his name – but in winning the Dante, the best trial for the Derby, he announced himself as a major player.

Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the St Leger on Classic Cliche
Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the St Leger on Classic Cliche (John Giles/PA)

While he met with his first defeat when third to stablemate Adayar at Epsom, he has since won the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris to mark himself out as a top-class colt.

Trainer Charlie Appleby is confident of securing his first St Leger success, telling “This has always been Hurricane Lane’s objective since the Grand Prix de Paris, and his preparation has gone well.

“He has consistently improved with every start this year and looks a lot more mature physically and mentally compared to earlier in the season.

“He is the class horse in the race and looks the one to beat.”

Hurricane Lane’s rider William Buick has enjoyed previous success in the Doncaster showpiece, winning back-to-back renewals on Arctic Cosmos and Masked Marvel for John Gosden in 2010 and 2011.

“It’s a race I always look forward to, and Hurricane Lane goes there with a good profile,” said Buick.

“He’s only been beaten once, in the Derby behind Adayar, and that was a good run in itself. Hurricane Lane’s form before and since is rock solid, and he’s really shown his quality in the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris – where he was spectacular.

“The way he finished off both races suggests there ought not to be a problem with the trip, but you never know until you try it.

“With his run style and his breeding, you would imagine he would stay as well as anything else would, and he’s got the quality, but I’ve ridden non stayers before in the race who I thought would get the trip.”

High Definition needs to bounce back to form
High Definition needs to bounce back to form (PA)

Like Godolphin, Aidan O’Brien already has six St Leger victories on his CV – and fires a four-pronged assault in search of his seventh.

The Ballydoyle maestro’s chief hope appears to be High Definition, who spent the winter months as favourite for the Derby, but is winless in three starts this season.

The Galileo colt made a promising enough start to his campaign when third behind Hurricane Lane in the Dante, but missed Epsom after a setback and has since failed to fire in either the Irish Derby or the Great Voltigeur at York.

O’Brien said: “High Definition had a little slip in the Irish Derby when he stumbled and he just lost his confidence a bit. York was his first run back after that, and we were happy with his run there and we thought he would come on mentally for it.

“He’s a horse we’ve always thought that he could get further than a mile and a half.”

Frankie Dettori, also bidding for a seventh Leger success, rides High Definition for the first time, and said: “He was Derby favourite for six months and is kind of the forgotten horse.

“His Dante run wasn’t too bad over a mile and a quarter – he was two lengths behind the favourite (Hurricane Lane).

“Hopefully he will relish the distance.”

O’Brien’s squad is completed by Interpretation (Hollie Doyle), Sir Lucan (James Doyle) and The Mediterranean (Wayne Lordan).

Interpretation winning at Leopardstown
Interpretation winning at Leopardstown (Brian Lawless/PA)

He added: “They all seem to be well. The Mediterranean is in good form, and he ran very well at York the last day. We’ve been happy with him, and it looks like he might stay a bit further.

“Sir Lucan is well – he ran well at Goodwood and wasn’t beaten far at York as well. Frankie just thought a little bit more cover might have suited him, but he still ran a nice race.

“Interpretation has been gradually progressive and he looks like he stays very well – he’s a very relaxed horse. Hollie rides after having a couple of rides for us at York this year.”

Johnny Murtagh surprisingly never won this Qipco British Champions Series contest during his illustrious riding career, but has strong claims of breaking his duck in it as a trainer with the improving Gordon Stakes winner Ottoman Emperor.

“I never rode the winner of the St Leger, although I didn’t ride in it that often, so to win it now as a trainer would be massive,” said Murtagh.

“He’s a horse that has been on the improve all season. He came out of Goodwood well and he’s unexposed.

“He has a chance, but he has to stay the distance – it’s a tough race at Doncaster for the three-year-olds.

“Having said that, he’s on an upward curve, and we’re excited about the weekend.”

Mojo Star finished in front of Hurricane Lane in the Derby, but behind him in the Irish version, when he had excuses.

Mojo Star winning at Newbury
Mojo Star winning at Newbury (John Walton/PA)

Richard Hannon has since taken him to Newbury for a confidence-boosting win.

“The flat, galloping track will suit. He was probably soundly beaten at the Curragh – but we almost got knocked over, and it took him a long time to get going,” said Hannon

“The extra two furlongs will suit him much more. He’ll get the trip. It will be more to his liking – the harder they go, the more it will be to his liking.

“He ran a very good race in the Derby. He’s not the one to beat, but he’s been underrated and deserves to take his chance.”

Tom Marquand after winning the Chester Vase on Youth Spirit
Tom Marquand after winning the Chester Vase on Youth Spirit (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Youth Spirit won the Chester Vase for Andrew Balding back in May, and has been on the premises in several big races since.

He will be ridden by Tom Marquand, who won the race last year on Galileo Chrome.

“Youth Spirit didn’t run up to expectations in the Derby, having won the Chester Vase, but he’s come back in good form following a rest and has run superbly since at Goodwood and York,” said the jockey.

“I think he’s entitled to be involved, and he’s about twice the price of horses whose form he ties in really well with. He’s one I’m looking forward to.”

Essential Quality adds Belmont Stakes to memorable haul for Godolphin

Essential Quality put the seal on a day to remember for Godolphin with victory in the Belmont Stakes in New York on Saturday night.

Just hours after the Charlie Appleby-trained Adayar stormed to glory in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom, Brad Cox’s Essential Quality produced a high-class performance of his own to land the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Having lost his unbeaten record when a close fourth in the Kentucky Derby, the grey Tapit colt was given a fine ride by Luis Saez who was alive to the brisk pace set by Hot Rod Charlie and Rock Your World, wary of not leaving his mount too much to do.

Moving up on the outside into second off the final bend as Rock Your World faded, a tremendous battle ensued with the gallant Hot Rod Charlie, with Essential Quality seeing out the mile and a half well to assert close home.

Cox – winning his first Triple Crown race – told NBC Sports: “That was a long way around there, a mile and a half. I thought it (pace set by Hot Rod Charlie) would benefit our horse – obviously Hot Rod Charlie ran a tremendous race, I thought with the hot pace we were in a good spot where they would come back.

“He ran (Hot Rod Charlie) a tremendous race on the lead and we did a fantastic job of getting in position turning for home – he was really able to show his stamina late.

“It looked like the horse on the inside (Hot Rod Charlie) still had running left (turning for home), so I knew it was going to be a battle down the lane.”

He added: “I want to thank Sheikh Mohammed, he’s been supporting us the last two years and this (Godolphin) is a tremendous organisation, world class. We wouldn’t be here without this horse and his support, so I really thank him.”

Saez said: “I was so confident in the Kentucky Derby we were going to win that race, we had a little unlucky start and got bumped breaking. So today the main thing was try to break clean and the rest I know he’s going to do.”

Appleby even managed to make his mark at Belmont, as earlier on the card his Althiqa came from way off the pace under Mike Smith to run down stablemate Summer Romance in the Longines Just A Game Stakes.

Appleby told “We are delighted with both Althiqa and Summer Romance and it is great to get a Grade One victory with a homebred filly. Althiqa is as tough as old boots and deserved to get her head in front at this level, while Summer Romance lost nothing in defeat.

“They had both won Grade Two races at the Dubai World Cup Carnival, so it’s nice to see the form get franked so strongly. We might potentially keep them out in the USA for the time being and have a look at the Grade One Diana Stakes at Saratoga next month.”

Setback rules Master Of The Seas out of Royal Ascot

Master Of The Seas has been ruled out of Royal Ascot after suffering a setback in training.

Charlie Appleby’s charge was beaten just a short head by Poetic Flare in the 2000 Guineas at the start of May, having lifted the Craven Stakes on his prep run for the Classic in April.

The Dubawi colt had been as short as 4-1 for the St James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting on June 15, but he is now set for a short spell on the sidelines.

Appleby told “Master Of The Seas pulled up slightly lame after working on Saturday and after further investigation, he was found to have strained a joint.

“He will now be on the easy list for the next two to four weeks. We will then look at potential future engagements, which could include Goodwood.”

Dante success puts Hurricane Lane in Derby mix

Hurricane Lane burst into the picture for the Cazoo Derby when knuckling down gamely to win the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York.

Ridden by William Buick and trained by Charlie Appleby, the son of Frankel took control well inside the furlong to claim the Group Two honours.

It was a welcome boost for Godolphin and Appleby after several previous runners in the recognised Classic trials fell short of expectations.

Hurricane Lane (5-1) had to work hard to extend his 100 per cent record on his third career start.

High Definition was sent off the 13-8 favourite to strike for Aidan O’Brien. But it was the stable’s second string Roman Empire, ridden by Hollie Doyle, who looked like springing a surprise after opening up a long lead into the straight.

However, Roman Empire came back to the field, and the finish was fought out by Hurricane Lane and Megallan, trained by John and Thady Gosden.

Hurricane Lane ground out success by three-quarters of a length. High Definition was a further length and a quarter away in third, with Roman Empire fourth.

A son of Frankel, Hurricane Lane was cut to 6-1 from 12-1 for the Derby with Betfair and Paddy Power.

In the past 10 days Appleby had seen three of his potential Derby candidates beaten, with Wirko and Yibir fluffing their lines in the Chester Vase and Dee Stakes respectively and Adayar having to make do with the runner-up spot in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

The Moulton Paddocks handler was delighted to see Hurricane Lane step forward as a legitimate contender for the premier Classic.

Appleby said: “We were pleased with Adayar, who was probably beaten by a sharper horse at Lingfield, and then we had the boys at Chester.

“When you went through the bare form of the horses ahead of the trials, we felt this horse had the best form of the four of them.

“He obviously beat Maximal at Newbury and Maximal went and ran well at Chester (second in the Dee Stakes), so we were confident that Hurricane Lane was the right one to go to the Dante.

“He’s got a great temperament for a big horse and is a good mover. It was lovely ground and he’s jumped and travelled well and stayed well, so he ticks a lot of the boxes (for the Derby).

“I was a bit worried Hollie’s horse had got away from them, but once I saw he was stopping, I was confident our horse would keep galloping and that’s what he’s done.

“He’s proven he’s got stamina in abundance and the step up in trip at Epsom should suit him. I’ve been on the phone to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and he was pleased, so as long as the horse comes out of it fit and well, that (Epsom) is the obvious place to go.”

The trainer confirmed Hurricane Lane is likely to be joined at Epsom by stablemate One Ruler following his sixth-placed finish in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

He added: “He’ll go straight for the Derby. He’s come out of the Guineas well and we toyed with whether to run him in the Dante, but it has always been Hurricane Lane’s plan, so we felt we’d go straight to Epsom with him.”

Buick said: “We all know the Dante is always a good trial and this year’s looked to have plenty of quality in it.

“I think what this horse has in his locker is that he will improve for a mile and a half, he will stay. Everything he does, he does it right, he went through the gears nicely and when he got company he battled back – he did that at Newbury, too.

Charlie Appleby has a major Derby contender in Hurricane Lane
Charlie Appleby has a major Derby contender in Hurricane Lane (Simon Cooper/PA)

“He’s gone from strength to strength, he’s improved with every run and has taken every run well, he’s got a real good mind. I can’t see much more you could ask of him.

“Obviously he’ll have to step up again, we all know that, but at least he’s got the experience now and he’ll get a mile and a half.

“It was a solid-run trial, a true-run race, unlike some of the trials it was an end-to-end gallop.

“He travels well and is well balanced, obviously he hasn’t been to Epsom but I’m not too worried about Epsom.”

Buick and Appleby combined for Derby glory in 2018 with Masar, and the rider added: “Masar was a top juvenile, won the Craven and was placed in the Guineas, we knew he’d get 10 furlongs – we weren’t sure about 12, but he got it very well.

“You never know about that race until the day.”

Of Megallan, Gosden senior said: “He came here on trial for the Prix du Jockey Club and if he’s in good order that’s where he’ll go as that is his trip. Megallan has a better turn of foot on quicker ground, so we’ll have to see what it’s like.

“I’ve always liked the winner, William was telling us on a flight back from Chester he thought he’d run well.

“I think the two best trials are the Derrinstown and the Dante, I think the winners are the two smart ones and Aidan also has two smart fillies.

“Uncle Bryn needs to grow up a bit, like all of us.”

Doyle was having her first ride for Ballydoyle and said: “He was doing everything so easy and they left me to it. I thought I’d ask him a question half a mile out and he responded.

“At the furlong pole I was thinking ‘where is everyone’. He’s run a huge race.”

Appleby and O’Brien big guns lined up for 2000 Guineas showdown

Coolmore and Godolphin dominate the 18 confirmations for Saturday’s Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.

Aidan O’Brien is chasing an 11th victory in the first Classic of the season and already holds the record as the most successful trainer in the race.

The Ballydoyle handler has an exceptionally strong hand, led by St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley – the first two home in the Dewhurst at the end of last season.

St Mark’s Basilica leads home Wembley in the Dewhurst
St Mark’s Basilica leads home Wembley in the Dewhurst (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Vintage Stakes winner Battleground, who missed the a large part of the summer before finishing second at the Breeders’ Cup, stands his ground, while O’Brien could also run Criterium International winner Van Gogh and Military Style.

Godolphin and Charlie Appleby look the chief threat to Ballydoyle, with two major chances.

He fields Craven Stakes winner Master Of The Seas and One Ruler, who will be making his seasonal debut but impressed in a recent workout on the Rowley Mile.

One Ruler beat Van Gogh in the Autumn Stakes before chasing home Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney in the Futurity Trophy at Doncaster. Appleby could also run Naval Crown.

Master Of The Seas is a leading contender for Godolphin after his Craven win
Master Of The Seas is a leading contender for Godolphin after his Craven win (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Following his Craven win William Buick has sided with Master Of The Seas, with James Doyle set to partner One Ruler.

“Five days out from the Guineas, I couldn’t be happier with them. One Ruler has been progressing nicely at home, while Master Of The Seas has gone to the races and put the score on the board,” Appleby told

“It wasn’t an easy call for William, who rode Master Of The Seas in the Craven and then sat on One Ruler in a routine gallop at Moulton Paddocks last week.

“William asked some serious questions of Master Of The Seas in his race, and he was pleased with the response. I believed that’s what clinched it in the end. Of course, the final call comes at declaration time on Thursday.

“Master Of The Seas had three runs as a two-year-old. He suffered a setback after the National Stakes at the Curragh last September. We then took him to Dubai (second in the Meydan Classic), all the while with an eye on Europe in the spring. We did the same with Masar.”

One Ruler was impressive in the Autumn Stakes last year
One Ruler was impressive in the Autumn Stakes last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He went on: “Master Of The Seas has taken a proven path to the Guineas, and has kept progressing, but the biggest change in him came after he ran at Meydan. He strengthened noticeably.”

As for One Ruler, he has been getting a helping hand from someone who knows exactly how to win the race.

“Things have also gone well with One Ruler. He is well in himself, and his work has been pleasing,” said Appleby.

“Kieren Fallon, who has been riding him all winter, took him for a routine gallop at Moulton Paddocks on Saturday, and he was pleased.

“Kieren won the Guineas five times, so it’s great to have a rider with that experience on the team.

“We took One Ruler for a gallop at Chelmsford four weeks ago, and he also had a racecourse gallop at the Craven Meeting earlier this month. His prep has gone well, and this is the perfect starting point for his Classic season.”

Mac Swiney adds to the Irish challenge along with stablemate Poetic Flare, as does Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega, a Group One-winning juvenile, with similar comments applying to Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon, who only has two lengths to make up on St Mark’s Basilica from the Dewhurst.

Adding further spice to the mix is Charlie Hills’ Mutasaabeq, who has been supplemented following his taking reappearance win at Newmarket.

Richard Hannon’s Greenham winner Chindit, Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Albadri, Ralph Beckett’s Devilwala, Roger Varian’s Legion Of Honour and the Andrew Balding-trained Mystery Smiles complete the field.

Hurricane Lane stays in Derby contention at Newbury

Hurricane Lane further strengthened Charlie Appleby’s potential Classic hand with a gutsy success at Newbury on Friday.

Appleby has enjoyed a fruitful week with his three-year-old colts, with Highland Avenue and Secret Protector filling the first two places in Tuesday’s Feilden Stakes at Newmarket, before Master Of The Seas and La Barrosa fought out the finish of Thursday’s Craven Stakes at Headquarters.

Hurricane Lane was a winner over a mile on heavy ground on his only juvenile outing and William Buick clearly had no concerns about his stamina ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup British EBF Conditions Stakes.

Sent off at 11-4, the son of Frankel was smartly away and Buick was happy to set the gallop, with favourite Maximal tracking his early move along with outsider Tasman Bay as the other four runners never really got competitive.

Maximal looked likely to forge on at one stage, but the winner found plenty without Buick having to be overly serious on him, edging a length in front at the line, with the Sir Mark Todd-trained Tasman Bay staying on well enough to be beaten two and a quarter lengths in third.

Hurricane Lane is now a general 25-1 chance for the Cazoo Derby at Epsom in June, and Appleby’s assistant, Alex Merriam, said: “Charlie was happy with the colt. He seemed to outstay them and it was only his second run. He’s a big physical specimen and we hope he will keep improving.

“We will take it steady away and see how our mile-and-a-quarter and mile-and-a-half horses run over the next few weeks. But he’s in the Derby.”

Mithras (16-5 favourite) was also shortened up for a possible Classic bid after winning the Dubai Duty Free Full Of Surprises Handicap to initiate a double for John and Thady Gosden, plus Frankie Dettori.

He is now a 20-1 shot for the Qipco 2000 Guineas on May 1 after prevailing by a neck over Saint Lawrence.

The Gosden-Dettori brace was completed by Gloria Mundi (4-1) who finished with a flourish to lift the second division of the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Maiden Fillies’ Stakes in a three-way photo with Hollywood Lady and Sea Karats.

The same team had been denied in the first division when Darlectable You (5-6 favourite) was beaten a neck by Aristia (20-1) for Richard Hannon and Sean Levey.

Elysian Flame forwarded his claims for the Chester Cup with a surprise 25-1 victory in the Compton Beauchamp Estates Ltd Silver Bar Handicap.

The Gosdens’ Almighwar was sent off the 6-4 favourite, but Elysian Flame was incredibly game for trainer Mick Easterby and jockey Nathan Evans, clinging on to victory by a neck.

The winner is a best-priced 14-1 shot for the Roodee feature, while Almighwar is the 10-1 favourite.

Dubai World Cup Trends

It was now just over 20 years ago that horse-loving and mega-rich HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had the dream to build a new and exciting race track in the heart of Dubai and attract the world’s best thoroughbreds to race for the Dubai World Cup.

Millions of dollars of prize money provided the carrot for trainers around the globe and with the prize now upped to a whopping $10million, from $6 million, for the main race this year’s event is set to be the best yet. 2010 saw the start of a new era with the entire carnival being run for the first time at the newly built Meydan Racecourse, having previously been staged at Nad Al Sheba.

The new futuristic track has cost an estimated $2billion to build and will easily accommodate a bumper 60,000 crowd. 10,000 car park spaces make things easier for visitors, while the track has been built on 76m Sq feet and includes a 12f turf track and an 8.75 Tapeta (AW) course.

This year’s (2021) race will be run on Saturday 27th March, the final day of the Dubai Racing Carnival that runs from January and consists of around 10 meetings.

Thunder Snow has landed the last two runnings -  and in 2019 gave his jockey, Christophe Soumillion his second success in this lucrative race. When winning the 2019 Dubai World Cup this 5 year-old, that is owned by Godolphin, he became the first horse to win the Dubai World Cup more than once. but this 5 year-old is trained by Godolphin’s Saeed Bin Suroor – a trainer that’s taken this top prize a staggering nine times since the race was first run in 1996……….more than any other trainer.

US jockey Jerry Bailey is the most successful pilot in the history of the race, having landed the prize four times, while Frankie Dettori has been in the winners’ enclosure on three occasions. Looking at the winner’s age it’s the 4 year-olds that have fared best, landing 11 of the 24 (46%) runnings – with 18 of the 24 (75%) winners being aged 4 or 5 years-old. We’ve only seen two winners aged older than 6 take the big prize – African Story in 2014 and Prince Bishop, who won the race in 2015 – that last-named horse also became the oldest winner in the race’s history at 8 years-old.

The fastest time to date in the race was recorded by Dubai Millennium back in 2000, after he won in 1:59.50 – but that was obviously recorded when the race was being run at Nad Al Sheba – the fastest time at the newer track – Meydan – is currently held by Thunder Snow (2:01.38) in 2018.

To date, there has only been one GB-trained winner of the race - Sir Michael Stoute – when his Singspiel took the prize in 1997 – and, as of yet, no Irish-trained winner.

With eight wins, Godolphin Racing are the most successful owners to date, while – as mentioned - Saeed Bin Suroor is the current leading trainer in the race with 9 victories.

The main supporting races are the $5 million Dubai Duty Free and the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic – these are the two richest races run on turf, anywhere in the world. The new race to the card is the Group 3 Al Quoz Sprint, worth $1 million. Other races on the card are the Dubai Golden Shaheen and UAE Derby, both worth $2 million, and the $1 million Godolphin Mile, while the meeting gets started with the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic for Purebred Arabians.


Dubai World Cup Trends (Since run at Meydan 2010)

10/10 – Previous Group 1 or 2 winners
10/10 – Had raced in the last 8 weeks
9/10 – Had won over 1m2f before
8/10 – Had raced in the last 4 weeks
8/10 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
8/10 – Previous Group 1 winners
7/10 – Didn’t win their last race
7/10 – Officially rated between 119-123
7/10 – Aged 5 or older
7/10 – Had won at the track before
6/10 – Unplaced favourites
5/10 – Returned a double-figure price
4/10 – Came from stalls 5-8 (inclusive)
2/10 – Winning favourite
The average SP in the last 9 runnings is 11/1

Trained Dubai World Cup Winners………..

11/24 – Trained in USA
10/24 – Trained in UAE
1/24 – Trained in GB
1/24 – Trained in Japan
1/24 – Trained in France


Previous Dubai World Cup Winners

2020 - No race (Covid)
2019 – Thunder Snow (UAE) (5): Christophe Soumillon / Saeed Bin Suroor – 4/1
2018 – Thunder Snow (UAE) (4): Christophe Soumillon / Saeed Bin Suroor – 8/1
2017 - Arrogate (USA) (4) : Mike E Smith / Bob Baffert - 1/3 (fav)
2016 – California Chrome (USA) (5) : Victor Espinoza / Art Sherman – 15/8 (jfav)
2015 – Prince Bishop (UAE) (8) : William Buick / Saeed Bin Suroor – 14/1
2014 – African Story (UAE) (7) : Silvestre de Sousa / Saeed Bin Suroor – 12/1
2013 – Animal Kingdom (USA) (5) : Joel Rosario/ Graham Motion – 11/2
2012 – Monterosso (UAE) (5): Mickael Barzalona/M Al Zarooni – 20/1
2011 - Victoire Pisa (JPN (4): Mirco Demuro/Katsuhiko Sumii – 12/1
2010 - Gloria de Campeao (FRA) (6): T. J. Pereira/Pascal Bary – 16/1
2009 - Well Armed (USA) (6): Aaron Gryder/Eoin G. Harty – 10/1
2008 – Curlin (USA) (4): Robby Albarado/Steve Asmussen – 4/11 (fav)
2007 – Invasor (USA) (5): Fernando Jara/K McLaughlin – 5/4 (fav)
2006 – Electrocutionist (UAE) (5): Frankie Dettori/Saeed bin Suroor – 5/4 (fav)
2005 - Roses in May (USA) (5): John Velazquez/Dale Romans – 11/8 (fav)
2004 - Pleasantly Perfect (USA) (6): Alex Solis/Richard Mandella – 5/2
2003 - Moon Ballad (UAE) (4): Frankie Dettori/Saeed bin Suroor – 11/4
2002 - Street Cry (UAE) (4): Jerry Bailey/Saeed bin Suroor – 9/2
2001 - Captain Steve (USA) (4): Jerry Bailey/Bob Baffert – 7/4 (jfav)
2000 - Dubai Millennium (UAE) (4): Frankie Dettori/Saeed bin Suroor -
1999 – Almutawakel (UAE) (4): Richard Hills/Saeed bin Suroor -
1998 - Silver Charm (USA) (4): Gary Stevens/Bob Baffert -
1997 – Singspiel (GB) (5): Jerry Bailey/Michael Stoute -
1996 – Cigar (USA) (6): Jerry Bailey/Bill Mott -


Godolphin announce death of Balanchine, aged 30

Balanchine, who provided a historic first Classic win for both Godolphin and Frankie Dettori, has died at the age of 30.

The 1994 Oaks winner was a pathfinder for the great Italian jockey and Sheikh Mohammed’s then nascent Godolphin operation – becoming the first of many to be trained over the winter in Dubai en route to major success in Britain.

Godolphin announced the death of their dual Classic heroine on Friday, following a long retirement at Gainsborough Farm in Kentucky.

Balanchine was trained by Hilal Ibrahim to win both the Oaks and then the Irish Derby at the Curragh, in the space of little more than three weeks.

Dettori was aboard on each occasion, having already finished a short-head second to Las Meninas in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket when he partnered the filly for the first time at the start of her three-year-old season.

Balanchine had won both her juvenile races with ease for owner-breeder Robert Sangster, before being bought by Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum and sent to be trained in Dubai en route to her Classic campaign.

Her historic Epsom victory came on rain-softened ground, by two and a half lengths from Wind In Her Hair – the third of four successes in eight career starts.

Dettori, just 23 at the time, later reflected on the significance for both him and Godolphin of her achievements at Epsom and the Curragh.

In an interview with Horse Racing Ireland in 2019, he said: “I was over the moon after I’d won my first Classic on her at Epsom – and I thought the next step would be the Irish Oaks.

“But Sheikh Maktoum and Sheikh Mohammed were never short of a challenge and they decided to race against the colts in the Irish Derby.

“I thought ‘God, this may be a step too far’. Obviously, I was proven wrong – because she won.”

Balanchine took charge with half-a-mile still to travel at the Curragh and easily beat Sheikh Mohammed’s King’s Theatre into second.

Dettori added: “It was my only Irish Derby win, and I was only 23, so I was ecstatic and delighted, and it was a massive feat for a filly. She was a one-off.

“It was a bold call to make a run against the colts – and that was, I guess, the stepping stone for what Godolphin is now…she was the start.”

Essential Quality proves all class for Godolphin in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Essential Quality maintained his unbeaten record to spark Kentucky Derby dreams for Godolphin with victory in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland.

Much of the pre-race discussion focussed on the Steve Asmussen-trained Jackie’s Warrior, who had won each of his previous four starts and was all the rage to cement his place as winter favourite for next year’s ‘Run for the Roses’.

Joel Rosario was forced to take a lead behind the red-hot pace on Jackie’s Warrior – who has looked so brilliant from the front – but once he did hit strike for home it was for just a matter of strides before huge outsider Hot Rod Charlie took over and threatened to cause a major shock.

Luis Saez looks to the skies after claiming Breeders' Cup Juvenile glory with Essential Quality
Luis Saez looks to the skies after claiming Breeders’ Cup Juvenile glory with Essential Quality (Mark Humphrey/AP)

However, Essential Quality came from further back under Luis Saez and ultimately won with authority – completing a big double for trainer Brad Cox following the success of Aunt Pearl in the preceding Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Hot Rod Charlie was second ahead of Keepmeinmind in third, with Jackie’s Warrior only fourth.

Cox – recording his fifth Breeders’ Cup winner – said: “It was a tremendous effort from Luis, who stayed at him the whole way.

“He has an amazing amount of stamina and is a spectacular horse for the Godolphin operation.

“I was hoping he wouldn’t flatten out, but that never looked like happening and moving forward we will point him at the Kentucky Derby.”

It was a first Breeders’ Cup victory for Saez, who said: “Today he was very focussed and really responded when I got at him. He ran right by them.”

Asmussen felt the strong early pace contributed to Jackie’s Warrior’s downfall.

He said: “It (the pace) was too much too soon.

“He’d accomplished a lot coming here and obviously we planned on winning and ended up coming fourth.

“Pace makes the race and it did not set up well for us today.”

Earthlight retired to stud

Earthlight, a dual Group One winner as a juvenile, has been retired from racing and will stand at Kildangan Stud in Ireland in 2021.

Trained by Andre Fabre, the Shamardal colt won both the Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes in an unbeaten five-race campaign in 2019, setting a new course record at Newmarket on the latter occasion.

Earthlight missed the early part of the 2020 season after suffering a setback, before returning with a Deauville Listed win in July, after which he finished a length behind Space Blues when fourth in the Group One Prix Maurice de Gheest.

He bounced back with a Group Three win when stepped up to seven furlongs next time, but had to settle for second in the Prix de la Foret on what was his final career start, beaten a neck by three times race winner One Master.

Godolphin’s Lisa-Jane Graffard told “Earthlight has been the most wonderful horse to be around. He was far superior to his rivals at two, showing a decisive turn of foot in his two Group One wins, while his demeanour was always one of calm self-assurance.

“He has been a wonderful flagbearer for Godolphin, from a family that has been nurtured for generations, by the late Shamardal and out of a New Approach mare. He showed class and courage in his races and will be a great asset to the Darley stallion roster.”

Earthlight is the second Godolphin star to retire in recent days, with last year’s top juvenile Pinatubo bowing out last Friday.