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Dewhurst Stakes: Plenty of Emotion in Godolphin and Ballydoyle rivalry
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Dewhurst Stakes: Plenty of Emotion in Godolphin and Ballydoyle rivalry

Old battlelines are redrawn in the big Ballydoyle/Godolphin head-to-head in the Dewhurst on Saturday, and Jamie Lynch goes back in time to chart the height of the hostilities and links the past to the present through the family of Emotionless.


'Everyone’s calling it the ‘Clash Of The Titans’ between ourselves and Air Force Blue,' said Charlie Appleby. 'It will be exciting and it’s just what Ballydoyle against Godolphin clashes used to be like.'

The biggest battles might have been fought, but the war still rumbles on.

The track was the fierce frontline, not least the doozie Dublin duels, in successive campaigns, when Captain Fantastic conquered Galileo in 2001 and the Wing Commander surrendered to Grandera the following year. Godolphin won those key battles, but Ballydoyle, by common and classic consent, are well on top in the war.

This week, it's not just on the racecourse, in the Dewhurst, which sees old rivalries renewed and old fires refuelled, as the heat has been turned up at Tattersalls, too, at the Book 1 sale. On the track, it’s a case of picking your battles; at the sales, it’s picking your warriors to fight those battles, and that’s where a power struggle can, and often has, spilled over into megalomaniacal madness.

On Thursday, Coolmore paid 2.1 million guineas for a daughter of Dubawi, literally at the expense of underbidders Godolphin. During the cold war years, the icy cold years, when one boycotted the other’s stallions, the Coolmore representative wouldn’t have raised his head let alone a bidding finger when the progeny of a Darley doyen like Dubawi was in the ring, and vice versa.

In recent years, Coolmore has bought an Exceed And Excel (The Warrior, for 600,000 gns) as well as a Bernardini (for $900,000 last March), and there was an old-fashioned tug-of-war for a colt whose lineage represented both the Montagues and Capulets, by Darley’s Shamardal but from a family that Aidan O’Brien has very successfully tapped into (see Halfway To Heaven), Godolphin eventually topping off at 1.7 million guineas for Chess Master, who was third to Muntazah at Leicester on his debut last month.   

So what’s changed? Firstly, tensions have cooled, it’s fair to say, in the same way that time heals the red-raw split of a once inseparable couple. And secondly, far more significantly, as Nicola Sturgeon might say: gone are the days of two-party politics.

There was a third bidder in the mix for the Dubawi filly on Thursday that pushed and rushed her up past 2 million guineas, namely Tony Nerses, acting on behalf of Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar – the Authorized men.

Then there are the Qatar men, the South African men (Mayfair Speculators) and the China Horse Club men, amongst other emerging superpowers. Where once there were two, now there are many. According to the good feud guide, grudges are best put to one side when there are other super-rich sharks in the water smelling bloodstock.

Bad blood equals bad bloodstock practice. In a world of supply and demand, it’s business suicide to cut off a supply chain, and one’s nose, to save a spited face when there’s so much demand around.

Times have changed since the rutting stag days of the win-at-all-costs battles between Godolphin and Coolmore in the sales ring. Its boiling-over point came on February 28th, 2006, at the Fasig-Tipton two-year-old sale. Having breezed like the proverbial wind, a colt by Forestry was believed to be the keys to the kingdom. It was feeding an addiction, and, so they could reach deeper into their pockets, the gloves were off.

In no time his price soared past $3m, leaving just two bidders: Demi O’Byrne and John Ferguson, Coolmore and Godolphin, the Lads and the Sheikh. And the war begun.

Ferguson curtly nodded with counter-offers all the way up to O’Byrne’s $16m, and then a shake of his head, with the Sheikh in his head. Upon signing the ticket, O’Byrne said just four words: ‘He’d better be good.’

He wasn’t.

The Green Monkey, presumably a half-brother to The White Elephant, was put in training with Todd Pletcher and ran just three times, painfully slow, painfully so for Coolmore.

The Forestry commission went into overdrive, but by then, in a strategic manoeuvre, Godolphin had already paid top dollar for a colt by the same sire, $4.4m for the full package of the mare carrying a Forestry foal. Like a baby on Christmas Day, the present turned out to be good – the colt was Etched – but the wrapping was the real gift that kept on giving.

It was luxury gift wrap, embellished with the crest of the Breeders’ Cup, because Unbridled Elaine had won the 2001 Distaff with a power-packed, spirit-stacked finish after the battle looked lost at one stage. The war against Coolmore looks lost for Godolphin, but, 14 years on from that Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Unbridled Elaine has given them renewed hope, and given them the renewed excitement to which Charlie Appleby was referring, because she’s given them Emotionless.

Her eighth foal, Emotionless is a giver, to the public and not only Godolphin, giving us more than a hint of his class on his debut at Newmarket and giving us goosebumps with his Champagne cruise, also giving William Buick the feel of being the one, as was written all over his face upon pulling up.

There’s a certain irony in Emotionless being by Shamardal, whose royal blue Darley branding doesn’t quite cover up the fact he is himself by Giant’s Causeway, who’s  Coolmore through and through, and so, in effect, Emotionless is to some extent the product of both superpowers, bestowing superpowers upon him, it seems.

The frisson from the Dewhurst is founded in the game-changing weapon that Godolphin are rolling out, redrawing the old battle lines to all intents and purposes, a we’re on-aggression pact, but Ballydoyle hasn’t built an empire on passivity and boasts a big gun of its own, appropriately by War Front.

A skirmish lost to Godolphin’s hired assassin Buratino at Royal Ascot taught a then-naïve Air Force Blue much about the art of warfare, put into deadly practice in the Phoenix Stakes and National Stakes, Group 1s both. Godolphin’s cruise missile won’t lock so easily on him, but equally Air Force Blue has never engaged anything like Emotionless before.

It’s almost like The Terminator story, Emotionless playing the part of the high-tech, high-spec soldier sent to fight the same long-running battle in a different time, to change the course of history. Air Force Blue is a hardened commando, a worthy adversary, but Emotionless is the new war horse. Emotionless is the new phwoar horse.

CLICK HERE for Dewhurst Stakes form and ratings    

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