June is the month of Epsom and Royal Ascot, for most Flat racing aficionados the highlights of the season when champions are crowned and legends are made. Forty years ago this month, it could be argued that the most significant race was not at either of those prestigious venues, but at Brighton.
Three days after John Cherry and Lester Piggott romped home in the Queen Alexandra Stakes to bring the curtain down on Royal Ascot 1977, a 27-year-old from Dubai celebrated his first winner as an owner on the south coast. Hatta’s victory in the Bevendean Maiden Stakes for two-year-old fillies may not have looked particularly significant at the time, yet it marked the first strike for Sheikh Mohammed in British racing, as Sean Magee recalls (pages 48-51).
Fast-forward to the present and the four runners that carried the blue of Godolphin in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York highlighted the impact and investment Sheikh Mohammed has made in the sport. If we include the Dante winner, Permian, owned by his son Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai accounted for half the field.
Permian will be supplemented for the Derby after his gutsy display on the Knavesmire and may yet appear in the Godolphin silks, but the son of Teofilo will need to progress in order to topple the might of Coolmore. Running plans for Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle battalion have yet to be finalised and while it looks likely that this month’s cover star Churchill will sidestep Epsom, he still has plenty of arrows to fire after this year’s trials.
Watching the Chester Vase, one felt slightly sorry for the opposition as O’Brien runners dominated the race to occupy the first three positions. The Coolmore ‘lads’ – John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith – are ahead of the pack when it comes to Derby horses, thanks largely to Galileo, sire of Chester Vase first and third Venice Beach and The Anvil, and Dee Stakes victor Cliffs Of Moher. Churchill, of course, is another by the incomparable super sire.
Blending speed and stamina, often with a dash of brilliance, Galileo’s runners can seem a breed apart from the progeny of other stallions. One thing is certain – his high-class sons, and there are plenty of them, will have to go some to match their father’s phenomenal achievements at stud.
His impact and investment in racing was highlighted by fielding half the field in the Dante
Robert Cowell wouldn’t turn down training a Derby horse but his undoubted speciality is horses at the opposite end of the distance spectrum. His 70-box Newmarket yard is made up almost exclusively of sprinters, having made his name with fast horses, often procured from other yards and turned into speedsters.
It sounds simple but there is plenty of hard work that goes into both the sourcing and training of Cowell runners. Prohibit got the Group 1 ball rolling in the 2011 King’s Stand Stakes and since then the likes of Jwala and Goldream have kept the trainer’s name in lights.
Tim Richards (Talking To, pages 42-46) finds out how the handler targets potential recruits and what he does differently to give his outfit an edge over his rivals.
As this magazine went to press news came through that trainer Alan Swinbank had passed away at the age of 72. Swinbank, who was based in North Yorkshire, trained a number of runners that readers will be familiar with, including that much-loved globe-trotter Collier Hill, Alfie Flits and Turbo Linn.
He had a real eye for a bargain at the sales and had a superb record in bumpers with Flat-bred cast-offs deemed surplus to requirements by the big breeding operations.
Collier Hill started life by winning a Catterick bumper but went on to record a Group/Grade 1 treble, capturing the Irish St Leger, Canadian International and Hong Kong Vase, earning over £2.3 million in prize-money.
Equally capable under both codes, Swinbank sent out around 800 winners during his distinguished career.