Masar provided a first victory for Godolphin’s royal blue colours in the 239th running of the premier Classic, the Investec Derby, in a momentous result at Epsom Downs on 2nd June 2018.
One of British racing’s greatest supporters, Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation has enjoyed G1 and Classic success all over the world, with such winners in 12 countries.
Team Godolphin spans four continents and has horses in training in Dubai, Australia, Japan, France, Ireland, Britain and America, with a worldwide breeding operation under the Darley umbrella to match.
Despite its position as a racing powerhouse with approaching 5,500 wins since inception in 1992, until 2018, the Investec Derby, Britain’s richest race, had eluded “the boys in blue”.
Although Godolphin claims Lammtarra’s Derby victory in 1995 (the Saeed bin Suroor-trained colt ran in the colours of Saeed Maktoum al Maktoum), Masar’s win was the first in the Godolphin royal blue colours and the success was made even sweeter being trainer Charlie Appleby and retained jockey William Buick’s first Investec Derby triumphs.
Speaking from his Moulton Paddock Stables in Newmarket, Appleby said: “Winning the Derby has been the highest point of my career, and for Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed to do it in the blue colours was a dream.
“It was something that not only we here at Godolphin enjoyed. What I took from it all was that racing enjoyed it and the success was applauded by everyone within the racing community.
“We all know how much Sheikh Mohammad puts into the sport. When I stood here six years ago when I started training and people asked me what my goals and ambitions were, obviously to win the Derby was on the agenda and it was fantastic to do that with Masar last year.
“Masar went into the Derby with masses of experience. Obviously, he won the Craven and then was a good third in the 2,000 Guineas. We were confident to go straight to the Derby after that effort, because we thought he would stay the mile and a half.
“We didn’t know if he was good enough to win a Derby as it was not a race that we had ever won before. He deserved to be in the race based on his past performances and he looked a live contender.
“As the race panned out, it was one of those few G1 or Classic races which you can watch comfortably as throughout the race, William always had Masar in the right position and had plenty of horse underneath him – it was an enjoyable race to watch and being the Investec Derby made it even more enjoyable.
“In terms of what it takes to be a Derby horse, I like a horse who has been well travelled and takes nice experience into the race. You then have to look at them as an individual and I have been lucky with the people around me who told me that Masar was potentially going to be the right horse for the Derby given his make-up. He is a very well balanced horse and we thought he would be able to take the undulations of Epsom and had a pedigree which would suggest that he would see the trip out.”
Masar has not raced since the Investec Derby due to injury and could return at Royal Ascot, with the G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (Wednesday 19th June) over 10 furlongs or the G2 Hardwicke Stakes (Saturday 22nd June) over 12 furlongs the possible options for the four-year-old son of New Approach.
Discussing the colt’s preparation for returning to racing, Appleby continued: “Masar is cantering away and we are very pleased with him. Physically, he has done very well. He is a monster and a gorgeous looking horse.
“We have made the entries for the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and the Hardwicke Stakes. It is a day by day situation with him and he is doing everything we have asked of him. The only thing I would emphasise is that he is a horse who helps himself potentially getting to Ascot because he is an athlete and a very good horse. He is a very clean-winded horse and if he comes in time for Ascot then great, we will be there.
“However, if I’m a gallop short with him, then I’ll wait as I’m not going to force him into getting to Ascot. It would be a lovely stage to bring him back, but it is a big stage and I wouldn’t want to bring him back there only 75% fit. Let’s hope it’s all good news from here on in.
“Personally, we feel that the mile and a quarter will be the right starting point for him. We saw what he has done over a mile and we haven’t explored 10 furlongs.
“The Prince Of Wales’s is a G1 race, but I feel after such a long layoff, 10 furlongs could be the better starting point. Our ultimate aim is going to be the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with him.”
William Buick also offered his reflections on Masar’s success. “The Derby doesn’t need any introduction” said Buick. “It is the most important race in our calendar and everyone dreams of winning the Derby. It was a great day.
“Masar looks well and horses develop and get stronger. He looks to have matured and looks a man now. He is a very professional horse.
“Anyone’s first Derby is very special and it is probably the most important victory of my career. Everything around the race with it being Godolphin’s first winner made it even more special and it was a big moment for a lot of people.”
Appleby’s Investec Derby challenge this year is set to be headed by Line Of Duty. Line Of Duty ended 2018 with a gutsy victory in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs, USA, in November, having won a mile maiden at Goodwood and the G3 Prix de Conde at Chantilly, France.
The Galileo colt, whose dam Jacqueline Quest was first past of the post in the 2010 G1 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, is pencilled in to reappear in the G2 Al Basti Equiworld Dante Stakes (1m 2f 56y) at York on Thursday 16th May.
Appleby said: “Far from saying that Line Of Duty is a Derby horse yet, him and Masar have very similar profiles; they both raced five times at two, they both went to America and Line Of Duty actually came out with a better result than Masar (sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf) on the day.
“We made the decision not to send Line Of Duty to the 2,000 Guineas. I have always said that a turning track is better for him, as it keeps him interested.
“I was confident going into the Breeders’ Cup that the turns there as well as the hustle and bustle would suit him. He is terrier-like and enjoys getting into a bit of a scrap. Those are things you are sure to get around Epsom.
“Over the straight mile in the Guineas, with a horse like him I felt boredom could set in slightly. Added to that, his pedigree and run style suggest that a mile was going to be on the sharp side for him as a three-year-old against proper milers.
“There is no doubt that the Guineas is one of the best trials for the Derby, but I felt it just was not going to suit this horse. I would rather go the Dante route to give him that opportunity up in trip and see where we are.
“I am looking forward to Line Of Duty running next week and, provided everything goes well between now and then, we will be going there in good shape and he will be a live player.
“The last couple of years, new doors have opened for us in respect to different pedigrees. Line Of Duty is by Galileo and that is a pedigree I had not dealt with before. It was interesting learning about the few Galileos we had around last year; what they like and what they enjoy.
“I asked a few questions to people that have more experience with Galileos and learnt along the way what type of Galileo you need. If you asked me about Dubawi, I could tell you front to back what you should be looking for.”
Appleby’s three Investec Derby entries also include Al Hilalee, who surrendered his unbeaten record when 16th in the G1 QIPCO 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday 4th May.
“When I say Al Hilalee was disappointing, it is always disappointing when you are not up on the podium,” the trainer said. “In hindsight, that calibre of race at that trip came too soon for him.
“The signs since are good and he has come out of the race well. We will look to take him to Newmarket now for the Listed Fairway Stakes (Saturday 18th May), stepping up to the mile and a quarter.
“We will not be setting any major targets for him just yet. He is a horse we have always liked, which is why we put him in the Guineas.
“The Derby picture will change over the next couple of weeks, I am sure. Line Of Duty is our main contender for the simple reason that he was one of our best two-year-olds and generally your best two-year-olds are up there with your best three-year-olds.
“The rest of the three-year-olds that we have this year – the likes of Jalmoud – are nice horses, but I am not sure they are Derby horses. Discussions will be had over the next few weeks about whether we will run them or not, but as we stand here today Line Of Duty is our main hope.
“Going there with one live chance is enough, rather than making up the numbers and potentially weakening my squad for the second half of the season.”
The Investec Derby, plus the other G1 races at the Investec Derby Festival, the Investec Oaks and Investec Coronation Cup, are part of the British Champions Series.