The Godolphin stable is a world renowned brand with operations that stretch across the globe, but where did it all start for the middle eastern racing giant?
We take a look at the origins of the Royal Blue Racing team, where it all started, how its going and some of the key people that have got them there including a look at some of the training jugganauts key runners.
The Origins Of Godolphin - Where it all began
The driving force for Godolphin has been Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s who is said to have set up the stable for his passion for horses and racing.
Sheik Mohammed has always been a fan of racing dating back to his times in Dubai racing friends on Jumeirah Beach but it would be when studying in the UK at Cambridge he would find a real passion for racing.
In 1967, whilst at Cambridge, Sheik Mohammed would attend his first race meeting at Royal Ascot where he would watch Royal Palace claim the 2,000 Guineas in front of a packed crowd including the British Royal family.
Sheik Mohammed would soon turn from spectator to owner, having his own horse Hatta winning at Brighton on the 20th June 1977. The horse would go on to drive the fire for The Sheik continuing his strong form and winning the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood.
From there the only way was up for Godolphin, purchasing a number of bases in the UK before making the decision to take a number of runners back to Dubai in order to train them in a warmer climate. There, with the help of his brothers the Maktoum family would form Godolphin in 1992.
The Royal Blue stable would be named Godolphin after the Maktoum family decided to dedicate their racing empire to one of the three founding horses of thoroughbred racing as we know it today - Godolphin Arabian.
Along with Byerley Turk and Darley Arabian, Godolphin Arabian was one of the three foundation sires captured in the middle east and taken to the UK to develop thoroughbred racehorse breeding between 1684 and 1724. Godolphin Arabian, also known as Godolphin Barb was named after Sir Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin and best known owner of horse.
The family would also use the name of one of the foundation horses for there breeding operation with the Maktoum family also overseeing the operations of Darley Racing who have breeding operations stretching across the globe.
Godolphin - Building The Foundation
With such strong links already held between the UK and there native Dubai, it was only natural that these two locations would be the starting point for there racing success and expansion.
To date Godolphin have three stables in the UK with the first being purchased back in 1981 where Sheik Mohammed purchased Dalham Hall Stud which is on the outskirts of what some call the home of UK racing, Newmarket.
Roll forward to today and Godolphin now have a further two bases - Moulton Paddocks and the Godolphin Stables in the UK which perform as the training bases for resident trainers Charlie Appleby and Saeed Bin Suroor who we’ll cover later on in the piece.
When we turn to Dubai the first stable established by Godolphin was the Al Quoz Stables in 1992. On first opening it was a single block of stables surrounded with only the desert sands for company.
Today, the original stables couldn’t look more different with Al Quoz surrounded by a city skyline including the shadow of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. The stables serve as base to Saeed Bin Suroor's horses during the winter months but also serves as a base of horses during the world's richest racing festival.
The Dubai World Cup takes place at nearby Meydan racecourse each year with horses travelling from all over the world to compete for its riches. Horses and trainers use Al Quroz as there training base for the event which has state of the art world class facilities.
Alongside Al Quroz is the smaller stables of Maroom which serve as home to trainer Charlie Appleby during winter. Maroon Stables is much smaller than the original Godolphin Dubai stables with room for just 84 horses.
Appleby has used his Dubai base as a launch pad for many Godolphin raiders down under including Jungle Cat who traveled from Maroom to Meloburne before winning the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes in 2018.
Godolphin - Expanding the empire
Away from there foundations in Dubai and England Godolphin have been quick to expand there global influence on the world of racing by acquiring stables or breeding barns across four continents.
A natural progression in 1986 was the purchase of Godolphins Irish enterprise, The Kildangan Stud property in Kildare. Whilst the Irish base doesn’t exist as a training facility it is used to house a number of retired stallions as well as a breaking facility for yearlings headed to the UK or Dubai.
The Irish operation is similar to that of Godolphins US Stud farms where there are no training facilities just the wheels of industry producing champion racehorse after champion racehorse. It was Sheik Mohammed’s brother, Sheik Maktoum who first made waves in America by purchasing Gainsborough Farm in 1984.
Today Godolphin owns three breeding farms in America with Jonabell Farm and Stonerside Farm being purchased by the Maktoum operation in the early 2000’s to expand there stallion and foaling capabilities.
Jonabell Farm in particular holds a strong connection with Australia having produced Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry who stood in Australia at Darley Stud and produced a number of black type progeny including four time Cox Plate winner Winx.
It would be around the same time of Street Cry’s success that Godolphin would take there first steps into the Australian market by setting up their Crown and Carbine lodge facilities in Melbourne and Sydney.
James Cummings would join the business as a retained trainer in 2017 and take up operations at a private facility in the North of Sydney called Osbourne Park. The remote facility serves as the base for Godolphin training operations with the likes of Exosphere and Contributor being prepared there before Group One contests.
Godolphin Trainers - The Chosen Few
Despite having a plethora of stables scattered across the Globe it seems slightly amazing that Godolphin only have a handful of senior staff training and riding their horses on retainers. Firstly we take a look at the trainers.
The first man hired to deliver the winning feeling to the stable was Dubai born trainer Saeed bin Suroor who currently trains out of the UK and UAE for the Royal Blue racing team. Suroor is the longest serving trainer for Godolphin having delivered his first success back in 1995.
Since pairing with Godolphin Saeed bin Suroor has been a huge success in British racing having won the British trainers’ Championships four times and conquered 12 of the British Classics at the race track.
As well as having success in the UK, Suroor has won races in the USA, UAE, Singapore, Japan, Italy, Ireland, Hong Kong, Germany, France as well as Canada. Godolphin’s longest serving trainer has also conquered four of the majors in Australia with his most recent being Benbatl winning the Caulfield Stakes in 2018.
Next to help expand the training reach of Godolphin was trainer Charlie Appleby who has been immersed in the ways of the brand for many years before appointed a head trainer in July of 2013.
Appleby had learnt his craft and worked his way up through the ranks after working for Sheik Mohammed as a traveling head lad, stable head and assistant trainer before getting the top job as trainer.
Today Appleby looks after some of Godolphin’s biggest names in the UK and UAE including the likes of Breeders Cup winner Yibir, former Global Horse of the Year Ghaiyyath and Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter who traveled down under in 2018 to win the race that stops a nation.
The last trainer on the Godolphin books is James Cummings, Grandson of the Cups King Bart Cummings. Cummings took over operations down under from John O’Shea in 2017 and has been at the helm of the Godolphin ship in Australia since.
A fourth generation racehorse trainer, Cummings had all the pedigree Sheik Mohammed was looking for to drive the Godolphin brand in Australia and quickly notched up double figures in Group One wins as well as a quick half century of black type winners.
Godolphin work with a number of trainers around the world such Andre Fabre (FR), Johnny Murtagh (IRE) and William Mott (USA) to help manage their global activities with a number of Royal Blue runners residing in there residence.
Godolphin Jockeys - Doyle, Buick and Barzalona
Saeed Bin Suroor with Godolphin Jockeys
Again, it seems ridiculous really that given the size of the racing operation that Godolphin only have three full time riders retained to ride their horses and all of them are based in Europe.
Yes obviously they will book riders to suit their needs with the likes of James McDonald, Tommy Berry and Jamie Kah are being booked frequently to ride for Cummings in Australia however William Buick, James Doyle and Mikeal Barzalona are the three designated men to ride the Maktoum family's wealth of thoroughbreds on a permanent basis.
Barzalona was the first conscripted to ride for Godolphin in 2012 having been appointed the stables principal rider in France. He’s won a number of the French classics for Godolphin and even notched up 72 wins in a season when riding for the stable.
The man from Lyon travels all over for Godolphin having won races in the UK, France and Germany for the stable. His biggest win was when he rode Talismatic to victory in the Group 1 Breeders Cup at Del Mar in 2017.
In the UK Godolphin have the riding power of veterans James Doyle and William Buick. With both riding globally Doyle and Buick have ridden for the middle eastern racing giant at several major events across the world.
Doyle in particular has a strong record in Australia having spent a season Down Under. He also rode the previously mentioned Jungle Cat to victory in the Dubai World Cup followed by victory in the Caulfield Stakes.
Where Next For Godolphin
The Godolphin stable have an infrastructure and breeding program like no other in the thoroughbred world so where do they go from here?
There is already talk of a raid on the Australian Spring Carnival from both bin Suroor and Appleby having declined to attend because of Covid in recent years so they will be chomping at the bit to get after Sydney and Melbourne’s mega rich races.
With the likes of Corebus, Hurricane Lane and Character all in training around the world it’s most likely to be a strong contingent representing the Royal Blue in years to come and most likely to be causing a stir globally for years to come.