Godolphin and Dubawi could do with Derby colt
Dubawi: commands a fee of £250,000 at Dalham Hall Stud
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Godolphin and Dubawi could do with Derby colt
12:26PM 21 MAR 2017
In the first in a mini-series lookng ahead to the turf Flat season, new bloodstock editor Chris McGrath wonders whether Dubawi can come up with a Derby colt
NOW here's a curiosity. Question: apart from coming fifth in the Derby, each beaten a distance somewhat more respectful than respectable in 2012 and 2014, what do Mickdaam and Red Galileo have in common? Answer: despite a red herring in the naming of Red Galileo, they are the only sons of Dubawi even to run in the race.
True, the values associated with Dubawi, both in the covering shed and the sales ring, could have no better vindication just now than a Coronation Cup winner as splendid in looks and deeds as Postponed. (And it should also be recorded that Dubawi has sired an Oaks third, Lady Of Dubai.) And it is also true that Dubawi, on paper, is hardly the kind of influence for stamina as he is for class. But the same could be said of Cape Cross, for instance, with his marvellous Epsom legacy – Sea The Stars, Golden Horn and, both as racehorse and dam, Ouija Board – and remember that Dubawi himself managed to stretch out his brilliance to finish third in the Derby.
One way or another, it certainly seems incongruous that a stallion capable of siring ten per cent Group winners to runners, commanding a fee of £250,000 and averaging very nearly £1 million per yearling in 2016, should so far be making less of an impression on the Derby than, for instance, his late companion at Dalham Hall, Halling, who sired a second, third and two fourths.
Of course, it has been tough going in recent years for everyone trying to stem the Ballydoyle flow at Epsom, such is the unique rapport between the progeny of Galileo and Montjeu and their former trainer. But that does not warrant defeatism. Apart from anything else, one of the main reasons for Ballydoyle's recent Classic hegemony is the puerile commercial stampede towards stallions whose perceived virtues of precocity and speed virtually guarantee that they will never sire a colt to win the Guineas, never mind the Derby. As Harzand and Golden Horn have shown in the last two years, those owner-breeders who can afford to rise above all that can profit from the resulting dilution of competition at the top level.
So it's no good simply washing your hands of the Derby if you don't have access to Galileo. If only they get the right mares, there are demonstrably stallions out there perfectly entitled to get you a colt to stand up to the Coolmore champion. And, judging from Godolphin's determination to corner the market in his yearlings, Dubawi is evidently considered the top of that list.
Of the dozen most valuable Dubawi yearlings to change hands last autumn, nine were purchased by Godolphin's John Ferguson. Of Dubawi two-year-olds so far registered in training with Weatherbys, 37 are stabled with either Charlie Appleby or Saeed Bin Suroor – and of course Godolphin, nowadays, have horses spread far more widely.
That is part of an ongoing renewal that would make it far too premature to treat Godolphin's fortunes this season as any kind of definitive guide to its progress. Even on the Flat, after all, the cycles of breeding and performance require more patience than will be granted by many who view the operation's recent record in the Classics, in particular, as an index of underperformance.
The fact is that you can't combine the coppicing of trees with the harvesting of fruit. In the wake of the excruciating but unrelated Al Zarooni scandal, Sheikh Mohammed appears to have authorised an exhaustive root-and-branch review of his entire bloodstock plantation. Any hint of dead wood, or overgrown bloodlines, has been met with an impressively bold scythe. The cull has extended through hundreds of horses, young and old, and continues with another draft of bluebloods at Ascot on Thursday.
Yet the "streamlining" of the feeder system could not be in greater contrast with the new strategy regarding the actual training of Godolphin horses – a responsibility now being shared, as just noted, by a growing variety of trainers in several countries.
As a result, the Godolphin brand retains little coherent connection with the premises of its foundation, and all the heady excitement we associated, in those innocent days, with the wintering of an elite corps of juveniles in the desert. As such, it is pretty hard to know the difference between the royal blue silks of today and the maroon and white of yesterday, or indeed the green and black of Princess Haya.
Be that as it may, a revival in the Classics would unquestionably represent a great tonic for everyone involved in the current realignment of Godolphin – and if Dubawi could produce a three-year-old to emulate Makfi, Night Of Thunder or New Bay, so much the better.
His big hope, as things stand, would appear to be Wuheida. A Group 1 winner for Appleby on her second start, in the Prix Marcel Boussac, she is behind only Rhododendron in the Qipco 1,000 Guineas betting. Appleby also has Sobetsu, disappointing behind Rhododendron in the Dubai Fillies' Mile but plainly worth another chance based on her ten-length maiden success. And Dubawi has another potential candidate in Shadwell's Ettisaal, winner of her sole start for Freddy Head last autumn, as well as a couple of maidens.
As a daughter of Hibaayeb, Singspiel's Ribblesdale Stakes winner, Wuheida could very well enter the Oaks equation as well. Meanwhile Dubawi has another filly very prominent in the early Epsom betting in Coronet, winner of both her starts for John Gosden in the colours of Denford Stud.
Dubawi's sole remaining representative in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas is Bin Battuta. A half-brother to Dream Ahead, he made a winning debut for Bin Suroor at Windsor last June but disappeared after disappointing at the Newmarket July Festival.
Bin Battuta is one of 11 Dubawi colts left in the Derby, pending the remaining supplementary stages. These include half a dozen that remain maidens or unraced, plus a couple of winners for Appleby: D'bai, who in contrast has stakes form but looks fairly exposed, and Wolverhampton maiden winner First Nation, a half-brother to St Leger winner Mastery.
Aside from his Godolphin squadron, Dubawi has two other Derby acceptors with an interesting profile: the Aga Khan's Devamani, third on his sole start for Alain de Royer-Dupre last autumn; and Red Label, out of a half-sister to Goldikova and promising winner of a Leicester maiden for Luca Cumani at the backend.
None of these feature prominently in the betting as yet. But hope springs eternal and it is surely only a matter of time before Dubawi, nowadays getting better mares than ever, will find a colt to secure his legacy in the Derby.
Even if some people no longer view the race as the ultimate one both to make and measure stallions, for Sheikh Mohammed – after the upheavals of Frankie Dettori's departure and Al Zarooni's disgrace – it would surely be the sweetest possible reward for the calm and determination he has brought to Godolphin's regrouping process.