Sunday, 11 June 2017

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO GODOLPHIN ?



No one takes kindly to being lectured to and told what is good them, what they should appreciate and how their cynicism is is merely jealousy without any solid basis. Worse still when the recipients of these smug sermons have no stage where they can broadcast their response.

With horse racing this was once a real scenario. Remember when realisation set in that flat racing was being absorbed by the Maktoums. It was 1985, Steve Cauthen would come hovering from the sky into the raceourses in that beige coloured helicopter, the cumbersome,silly looking hand held phones were appearing, Arthur Scargill, Heysel and the news that next year there would be a new racing daily to rival the grey, overpriced Sporting Life.

Although this news was welcoming it was washing thin that the Maktoums were all for the spirit of competition and fully testing and exposing their stars. Shareef Dancer had seen to that, he had been their first real superstar when quickening like a champion of champions when beating both the Epsom and French Derby winners at the Curragh two years earlier.

We never caught site of him again. He was declared to run in the Benson and Hedges but was withdrawn in the morning. Rumours spread that he was considered too precious to risk. That they kept him wrapped up in cotton wool and did not want to destroy the legend of him. As it turned out they were wasting their time anyway as despite given the best chances possible of success at stud he under performed. There is no legacy from him.

Still, we were reminded by the likes of Brough Scott how lucky we were to have the Maktoums and that we owed them more than they owed us. How lost we would be if they upped sticks and moved their empire to another part of the globe. Of course, the fact that their presence might deter others from entering the sport, that their infinitive resources might just hasten the dispersal of traditional owner breeder stock were never discussed critically by racing journalists whether on the TV or in writing.

Too many had their heads in the troughs. Same with the training ranks. Those who were not the chosen ones would never question that the Maktoum involvement may not be benefiting the sport as much as the sycophants made out. Most kept quiet and hoped that they might just get that lucky telephone call one day.

The ones bold enough to have a moan about how frustrating it was to get beaten in a Catterick or Redcar maiden by a blue blooded Maktoum horse from one of the big southern yards knew that they never had the profile to get on the payroll in the first place.

Of those with the freedom of the press airwaves, Scott was arguably the Maktoums greatest supporter. He of course played a big involvement in the introduction of the Racing Post. It was a big love in, if disapproval existed from any quarter it would be kept inside a locked box. This was easy to maintain for those that controlled the racing airwaves and publications.

Bad publicity for the family would be handled constructively. A story did once get out about a couple of bloodstock agents connected to them going on a bender and trashing their hotel. No names were printed but it would not have been difficult to compile a short list.

Remember, there existed no platform available for anyone to respond then . No internet forums or You Tube, Facebook ect; merely the letters pages in the racing papers which were obviously not going to print any dissent.

How times have changed. The emergence of sports betting to an extent whereby racing has now become just one of many daily opportunities to wager could not have been predicted. Interest in the sport of horse racing has fallen. The response to someone finger wagging on the television screen and reminding you how worse off 'we' would be without some plutocrats investment in the sport would be met with a zombie like stare.

The attitude now is  'so what I'd rather bet on the cricket, tennis,rugger, footy or golf anyway'. Dissent too can be voiced on horse racing forums, one having become so notorious that complaints are often made from members of the racing community, lawyers supposedly scan it, thin skinned members of the racing media have their names starred out if you try to type them.

So to these eruptions of the last couple of weeks within the Godolphin camp. There has been many rainy days and Mondays for a number of years now. That midas touch seems to have been lost where they would take charge of established charges from another yard, whether it be already Maktoum owned or acquired from outsiders, and perform wonders by taking the animal up a further level.

Daylami was a prime example. A high class miler with Alain Royer Dupre, Godolphin stepped in, purchased him from the Aga Khan and turned him into an exhilarating middle distance performer. It would not be a bad call to say that the day he won the King George in the wow manner he did was the pinnacle moment of the Godolphin operation. More so than Dubai Millenium's  Dubai World Cup.

Then there was Swain. He might as well have had a 'plodder alert' sign attached to him. Andre Fabre had actually run him twice over 1m 6f but to his credit he did get him into the frame in two Arcs though he looked decidedly one paced on each occasion. When he moved to Godolphin some thought the Ascot Gold Cup could be a feasible target. Instead, after the customary winter in Dubai he came back and built himself a profile no one would have envisaged. King George's, Irish Champion Stakes, going close in the Breeders Cup Classic.

Those days all now seem a long time gone .When examining how the overall performance of the operation has dropped off the most accurate barometer is to look at the Group One events in Great Britain, France and Ireland. A Group One in these three countries is more likely to field a genuine top class field than any of the other nations.

Looking at time windows there was an eleven year period from the beginning of 1995 to the end of 2005 when the operation was in its zenith. It began in the era of Halling and ended in the era of Shamardal. During this period Godophin had 75 Group One successes in the three aforementioned countries.

If we look at the next eleven year time period from the beginning of 2006 to the end of 2016, successes at the same level in the same three countries had fallen to 32. Lame excuses are indeed just that, from lack of access to the best of Galileo's progeny to the quality of staff and work riders as rather oddly cited by Saeed Bin Suroor. There can be no credible excuses for this dramatic decline.

What we have now is a scrambled organisation with internal strife, airing dirty washing in public, poor returns on investment and no signs that they will return to the heyday of old.


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