John Ferguson has stepped down as chief executive and racing manager of Godolphin – bringing to an end a quarter of a century working for Sheikh Mohammed in various roles.
Following recent reports in the media indicating unrest within the Godolphin operation, Ferguson has described his position as “untenable”.
In a statement issued, Ferguson said: “Given the recent articles in the media, it was clear my position was untenable.
“At times such as these, what matters is the future and my stepping down will allow everyone to draw a line under things and move forward.”
“All the staff at Godolphin are wonderful people who work so hard for the greater good and I want to thank each and every one.”
“His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has given me so much over the years: trust, opportunity, amazing experiences and, perhaps most importantly, his kindness and counsel. For all these things I thank him with all my heart.”
Joe Osborne, the current managing director of Godolphin in Ireland, will take up the position of interim chief executive of Godolphin’s global operation.
Godolphin, Sheikh Mohammed’s multi-billion dollar racing operation, is yet to win the Epsom Derby – the race generally believed to be the ultimate test of the Thoroughbred.
However, his longstanding trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, tasted success in the race back in 1995 when Lammtarra swooped late for an unlikely victory in the hands of the late Walter Swinburn. Since then Sheikh Mohammed has seen New Approach triumph in the green silks of his wife, HRH Princess Haya, but never in his own royal blue.
That could all change today, when Godolphin field one of their strongest teams in a wide open Derby. None of their three runners feature among the favourites for the race, but in this year’s contest, anything can happen.
John Ferguson, Godolphin’s chief executive, appears to rate Lingfield Derby Trial winner Best Solution as the pick of the trio, and indeed the colt was most impressive when scoring well at a course similar in topography to Epsom. If he can come home first, it will be a boon for Meydan, Best Solution having run twice here over the winter.
Best Solution is all but guaranteed to cope with the Derby’s mile and a half of testing twists and turns, which can come as a shock to an inexperienced horse such as stablemate Dubai Thunder. The son of Dubawi won by ten lengths on his debut at Newbury last month, convincing Bin Suroor to enter him in one of the toughest races of them all. If he is to win, he needs to be very special indeed.
Saeed bin Suroor has nominated Best Solution as the Godolphin colt to have derived most benefit from his prep race and subsequent work in the run up to Saturday’s G1 Investec Derby at Epsom.
Benbatl has also completed his Derby preparation with a pleasing final hit-out on Newmarket’s Limekilns that left the trainer confident he could give a good account of himself in the Classic.
Lingfield Derby Trial winner Best Solution travelled to Chelmsford, Essex, on Saturday for a training spin on the Polytrack in the company of fellow Derby contender and stablemate Dubai Thunder, an exercise that he completed with conspicuous ease.
Best Solution (ridden by Neil Pollard) galloped a mile and a quarter with Dubai Thunder (Kieren Fallon), taken along by lead horse Youmkin, and the son of Kodiac was reportedly doing slightly the better than his less experienced companion in the closing stages.
“It was a nice bit of work, it was never meant to be a race,” Bin Suroor explained.
“Best Solution has been a horse, who has never shown much in the morning. But now, after his win at Lingfield, he is working very well. He is thriving.”
Bin Suroor hinted that Dubai Thunder, who will be having only his second start when lining up for the Derby, was rapidly making up for lost time.
“This was only the second time in his life that he had been away to a racecourse, and he’s constantly learning. He’s come back from that experience very well,” the trainer added.
Benbatl, who completes the trio of Godolphin colts for Epsom, galloped on the Limekilns at Newmarket on Monday. He was ridden in his work by Chris Catlin.
“I’m happy the way he has come out of the G2 Dante at York. He’s sound and healthy,” Bin Suroor said.
“The Derby is the biggest race in the world, and consequently it is hard to win. The track at Epsom is very difficult. Not many can handle it.
“The three we run this year are not big horses. They are medium size, and this gives them a better chance,” he added.