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.
Jungle Cat, Comicas and Baccarat provide Godolphin with strong representation in the G2 Duke Of York Stakes over six furlongs Wednesday.
All three horses are trained by Charlie Appleby and started the year brightly at Meydan, with Jungle Cat (William Buick) easily winning the six-furlong Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint on March 4 before going on to finish fourth in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint over the same course and distance on March 25.
Comicas (James Doyle), a sixfurlong dirt handicap winner on February 11, ran a superb race on Dubai World Cup Night, coming home second in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, also over six furlongs on dirt.
Baccarat (Adam Kirby) could only finish down the field in the Al Quoz Sprint, but the eight-yearold had previously taken second in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint and beaten Jungle Cat into second in a handicap on turf over six furlongs on January 26.
Appleby said: “Jungle Cat had previously put together a good set of performances on quicker going and, if he can reproduce those efforts, he should be competitive on a sounder surface.”