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2018 Review: Godolphin’s golden year to remember

2018 was a stellar year for the Royal Blues.
J A McGrath

Godolphin’s achievement of a best annual performance of 30 G1s globally can be attributed to an impressive depth of quality in a variety of countries throughout an eventful year. 

The megastars were unquestionably G1 Derby winner Masar, G1 Dubai World Cup hero Thunder Snow, and G1 Melbourne Cup victor Cross Counter — but the supporting cast was vast and equally as deserving of recognition.

From February through to November, the big winners kept coming, much to the delight of those following His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s global stable.

Numerically, Godolphin also enjoyed a record-breaking year, surpassing the previous best of 651 wins in a year, on 1 December with more racing still to come. Whichever way you look at it, 2018 was a stellar year for the Royal Blues.

Versatile veteran Hartnell was first to strike at the highest level, in Australia, in the G1 Orr Stakes at Caulfield, with the decision to aim at a 1400m (seven furlong) target early in the campaign a masterstroke of placing by trainer James Cummings.

The son of Authorized later added to his big-race haul by landing the country’s premier mile, the G1 Epsom Handicap at Randwick in September, a major triumph for a horse who first made headlines by winning over two miles (3200m) at Royal Ascot and progressed to great heights in Australia, also being placed in a G1 Cox Plate and G1 Melbourne Cup.

Kementari, the Lonhro colt who promised so much, enjoyed his day in the sun when taking the G1 Randwick Guineas, and Alizee and Impending both enhanced their reputations by winning G1s in Sydney and Brisbane respectively. 

Then appeared one of the season’s three megastars, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Thunder Snow, who must rank among the toughest and most durable horses to race for Godolphin in recent years.

His triumph in the G1 Dubai World Cup was superb, but the son of Helmet kept on running up to that level of form, later finishing a courageous third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which capped a tremendous season for him.

On the Classic front, the path taken to Epsom by Masar, another megastar, was fascinating. After wintering in Dubai, he came back to Britain to annihilate his rivals in the G3 Craven Stakes by nine lengths at Newmarket, and then took third in the G1 2,000 Guineas, run over the same Rowley Mile.

Trainer Charlie Appleby had the homebred son of New Approach spot on for the G1 Investec Derby at Epsom in early June, which the colt duly won in the hands of William Buick, by a length and a half from Dee Ex Bee, with Roaring Lion third, and G1 2,000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior fourth.

Roaring Lion, earlier winner of the G2 Dante Stakes, subsequently won four G1s in Britain and Ireland, while Derby ninth Kew Gardens went on to win the G1 Doncaster St Leger. It was a Derby with conspicuous depth.

In Godolphin sprinting ranks, Jungle Cat landed the G1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan in March in the absence of stablemate Blue Point, who was withdrawn at the start on veterinary advice. But the latter had his day, again with Buick in the saddle, in the G1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Jungle Cat later finished his career in Melbourne, notably winning the G1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes with James Doyle aboard in September, a race Appleby had pinpointed for the sprinter months in advance.

Wild Illusion was another to have enjoyed a brilliant season, finishing second in the G1 Investec Oaks at Epsom prior to G1 wins in Goodwood’s Nassau Stakes and Longchamp’s G1 Prix de l’Opera, only to be touched off in the last strides of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs.

But a potential Classic note to take away from Kentucky was the win of the Appleby-trained two-year-old Line Of Duty, who came from an unpromising position to win the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Elsewhere, Saeed sent out Best Solutioninfo-icon to win two G1s in Germany prior to the colt’s memorable win in the G1 Caulfield Cup. Ridden by Pat Cosgrave, he missed the start, was trapped six wide at the first turn, yet outstayed his rivals for a fine win in the first leg of Melbourne’s Spring double.

Godolphin famously won the second leg, too, when the stable’s third megastar for the season, Cross Counter, saddled by Appleby and ridden by Kerrin McEvoy, stormed down the outside from second last on the home bend to mow down the leaders to snatch the G1 Melbourne Cup.

It was the climax to a Godolphin season that will live long in the memory for all the right reasons.