Forty years ago, on 20th June 1977, a filly named Hatta became the very first winner for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, in a race at Brighton.
What began four decades ago has blossomed and flourished into a wide-reaching extension of Sheikh Mohammed’s passion that reaches all corners of the horseracing industry and the sport he loves so much.
Godolphin is the global thoroughbred breeding and horseracing team founded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.
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.