Godolphin, Egos & Turmoil

Posted by Paul Moon in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Backing Godolphin runners in the recent past has been profitable for us and actually paid for our 2017 MELBOURNE CUP CARNIVAL visit later this year. Generally speaking they are easy to read and run horses on their merits. 

After the latest coup d'état and consequent deposition of the amiable John Ferguson, jockey bookings will take on greater significance as Saeed bin Suroor attempts to show the racing world the lack of recent major success was not his fault! In effect he is now under the spotlight with pressure to produce.

For a global multi-million pound superpower the lack of success in British Classics is nothing short of catastrophic! Dawn Approach (trained by Irishman Jim Bolger) won the 2000 Guineas in 2013 but it's now 22 long years since Saeed Bin Suroor completed that Epsom Classic double with Lammtarra and Moonshell. One thing is clear, this trainer desperately needs another young Frankie Dettori but where can he find one, is there one?

We venture behind troubled mist seeking clarity.


It is well known that Saeed bin Suroor was angry about James Doyle being foisted upon him as the retained rider and who could blame him? It's like Jose Mourinho being given striker Daniel Sturridge and told to play him. Without being critical of Doyle he did say: "I was not happy - it was very hard to do my job properly." Ultimately it is the trainer who is measured on the success of the stable so he must be allowed to have his own man in the saddle. The Racing Horse checks out the current UK jockeys to have ridden for Saeed in the past 5 years, and to the naked eye it is hard to see a plan or strategy! Even so, from these 17 combinations 15 of them have combined a strike-rate in excess of 21% and surprisingly from different types of jockeys. We show wins from rides and the important strike-rates.

James Doyle 88 357 25%
Silvestre De Sousa 66 304 22%
Kevin Stott 22 81 27%
William Buick 17 67 25%
Harry Bentley 16 72 22%
Oisin Murphy 15 47 32%
Dane O'Neill 13 49 27%
Josephine Gordon 11 28 39%
Paul Hanagan 10 47 21%
Pat Cosgrave 8 22 36%
Jim Crowley 7 23 30%
Adam Kirby 6 17 35%
Alistair Rawlinson 6 11 55%
William Carson 4 19 21%
Martin Harley 3 13 23%
Robert Havlin 2 11 18%
Martin Lane 2 16 13%


Looking at the names above who could have imagined they would employ Alistair Rawlinson and produce 6-11 for a massive 55% and why hasn't he been asked to ride more? He is 2-2 on 2yos and 3-7 with 3yos and 1-2 with 4yos+ and those figures are impressive no matter how you view them. If that is a surprise how about Josephine Gordon breaking into the chauvinistic Arab world and registering 11-28 for 39% with 2-6 on 2yos, 7-17 with 3yos and 2-5 with 4yos+. This is great news in itself and long may this continue. Consensus agrees William Buick is one of the top three jockeys currently riding in the UK and he became a Godolphin retained jockey in January 2015 riding as first jockey for trainer Charlie Appleby. It is almost certain Buick (28) will get better and give them success if they give him the quality material.


The 20 year-old Oisin Murphy would have been the most perfect fit but he is currently retained by Qatar Racing though he is known to ride plenty of work for Godolphin. A switch could happen, it only needs the will. Though a very good rider Paul Hanagan failed to impress at the very highest level and has since been replaced by Jim Crowley as the number one for Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum. Crowley worked hard and deserved to be champion jockey last season but does he have the class of a Buick, Dettori or even a Murphy? We think not. Adam Kirby has been unfairly tainted as an AW jockey but remains very effective, though he seems to have made a bigger impression on Charlie Appley rather than Bin Suroor (see rides). The other 10 have varying skills but none suited for a very top job.


Retention by a super stable is the holy grail of the jockey so Silvestre de Sousa's dismissal from Godolphin as the retained jockey came as both a shock and another mistake. Our belief is that he has become even better since that reversal and a change of mind by Bin Suroor or the Sheikh would see both parties benefit big-time, that is of course if Silvestre accepted an offer to rejoin. The jockey reminds us he is not a push over. 

Before we draw any conclusions about the combination of Bin Suroor and his jockeys we thought it prudent to see what statistics Charlie Appleby's are:

William Buick 140 606 23%
Adam Kirby 70 238 29%
Martin Lane 27 196 14%
James Doyle 26 155 17%
Silvestre De Sousa 24 99 24%
Shane Gray 18 57 32%
Phillip Makin 17 51 33%
Kevin Stott 13 64 20%
Cam Hardie 5 23 22%
Ryan Moore 4 16 25%

We have only shown the top 10 combinations because below that number the sample is too small. Interesting that James Doyle rode at a higher strike-rate for Bin Suroor than William Buick does for Appleby. 


Saeed separated his own yard from that of Charlie Appleby by describing his base as "the main Godolphin stable." He then bemoaned his latest 2yo intake, extremely backward relative to the collection entrusted to Appleby, stating: "It is a disaster. I can't train them, have no chance to run them. The system is not quite great this year." We looked at the records of both trainers since 2013 to see if those comments stacked up. Saeed bin Suroor (blue) and Charlie Appleby (orange):

2017 29 116 25%   2017 37 147 25%
2016 68 319 21%   2016 70 331 21%
2015 105 392 27%   2015 151 663 23%
2014 93 405 23%   2014 102 549 19%
2013 106 523 20%   2013 60 304 20%
Total 401 1755 23%   Total 420 1994 21%


The Racing Horse has looked at the figures on a year by year basis and note that in 2013 both trainers recorded a 20% strike-rate but that was Appleby's first year for Godolphin. In 2014 he ran 144 more runners than Bin Suroor yet only just beat him with winning numbers and recorded 19% against 23%. As we know in this game there is a huge difference in four percentage points. 2015 saw Appleby run 271 more runners than his partner registering 23% but once again Bin Suroor recorded a higher strike-rate with 27%. 2016 showed Godolphin sending out the fewest numbers in the UK (because of illness) and both trainers recorded identical statistics and a 21% strike-rate and the current year sees Appleby hitting his highest strike-rate yet of 25%. This is the first time he has equalled Bin Suroor figures.

Runs S/R Prize money 1pt stake
Saeed bin Suroor 1755 23% £7,990,776 -122.15
Charlie Appleby 1995 21% £7,472,092 -265.58

The figures suggests that Bin Suroor does a little better than Charlie Appleby and with 240 less runners.


Godolphin’s success at this year's Royal Ascot meeting incorrectly suggests that suddenly parting with a Racing Manager is not the end of the world because the reality is the winners must owe quite a bit to the systems and people that Ferguson put in place. Reporting directly on a daily basic to Sheikh Mohammed cannot be sustained so something has to change in the short to medium term. In such a gigantic operation the sharing of young horses to each trainer over the phone, fax or email is implausible and there must be a structure and an overseer otherwise there will be chaos of the calamitous kind! We know Bin Suroor was unhappy with Ferguson dividing the horses between him and Charlie Appleby but surely someone has to do it?


On the subject of how yearlings will be shared out in future, Bin Suroor said: “I hope it will be changed. We need forward [precocious] horses and quality. Our stable is the main stable, the original stable of Godolphin since we started 23 years ago. People there want us to do good. We have a good reputation worldwide. Now we’re looking to the future, that’s not this year, it could be the year coming." So what does the main stable mean, does this mean in future that he should have the best stock or first choice whilst Appleby has the crumbs from the table? That does not seem sustainable either and it is certainly not a way forward.


The Racing Horse is not privy to the internal machinations of Godolphin but we doubt the appointment of Joe Osborne as the permanent Chief Executive will deal with the above issues. He may or may not offer a vision but there still needs to be a Racing Manager who has a close liaison with both trainers and able to provide organisation, structure and procedure. It is pure folly/disorder to imagine Bin Suroor circumventing a CEO or Racing Manager and talking to the Sheikh on bloodstock or daily horse racing matters! We believe the Sheikh has yet to lance the boil regarding a Racing Manager/Saeed bin Suroor and every week that passes will aid entrenchment and then festerIt was very significant Bin Suroor did not give a direct answer when asked if he reports now to Osborne or will continue to go straight to the Sheikh. He had to answer that question and the fact that he did not clearly means the situation has not been resolved. We have yet to hear from Joe Osborne about what he can bring to the collaboration but doubt he will fare better within the current mindset. Osborne was previously the managing director of Kildangan Stud, Godolphin’s breeding outpost in Ireland. This job will test him and our best advice is to prepare a brief and then tackle the ego of Bin Suroor early.


Godolphin has won over 4,000 races worldwide since its inception in 1992 but like any stable they yearn quality not quantity. Of course, the reason Ferguson was promoted was to give UK operation "a kick in the belly" but the belly did not like it and it was the belly that kicked the kicker, proving beyond doubt the Godolphin policy flawed and one that cannot be compared to Coolmore. One readily accepts the Coolmore stallions are the best in the world and their team increases both in size and quality every year but there are many other areas that shows differentials in effectiveness. One is organised, has structure with a plan, is united and understand tactics. They are also approachable and humble whilst the other is disorganised, has no structure or plan, is disunited with egos all in the wrong places. The hire and fire mentality sucks out what energy remains and this in turn breeds a culture/fester that produces a Mahmood Al-Zarooni which compounded every problem they had. Some believe that Godolphin have still not recovered from his abhorrence. If you add mistakes, poor tactical nous and an unproven Dubai wintering policy then there are just too many negatives conducive to success! Joe Osborne has plenty to get to grips with.


There was some light relief for the boys in blue as they came mightily close to breaking Coolmore's grip on the world’s premier international race meeting at Royal Ascot. Coolmore’s six wins, seven seconds and four thirds pipped Godolphin’s six winners, six second-place finishes and the same number of thirds but of course one cannot forget that Ferguson had input into those figures. Godolphin’s six winners have been provided by five trainers and only one by Saeed bin Suroor. It does show that the team have some good horses they just need to get organised to get the best out of them and a good jockey retainer would help. One has only to look and see what Ryan Moore is bringing to Coolmore to know this is an area of utmost importance!


Before we prepared and blogged this piece we had not realised the extent of the rivalry between Bin Suroor and Appleby. The language used by the former is not conducive to team play and one wonders if his removal has been considered. Two things are currently outstanding - how will he get on with new CEO Joe Osborne and will there be/who will be the new Racing Manager?

Jockey bookings will be of interest to us more than ever and we will log success or failure from 1st July and report back.


Today's Pacafi: click here
Our information and betting advice is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Please exercise caution when acting upon our advice and remember that all gambling carries risk. No liability is taken by the site or product owner following any of the information given or sold to you. Betting always involves a level of risk and you should never bet more than you can afford to lose.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *