Derby hope Jack Hobbs to race in Godolphin Colors

Posted on May 23 2015



Jack Hobbs, right, pictured finishing second to Golden Horn in the Dante Stakes at York.
Photograph: Hugh Routledge/Rex

 

Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin racing operation has bought into the partnership which owns Jack Hobbs, the joint third-favourite for the Derby at Epsom next month at odds of 8-1. The colt, whose sire Halling was formerly a leading stallion for the Sheikh’s Darley Stud, will now race in Godolphin’s blue silks for the remainder of his career, but remain with his current trainer John Gosden in Newmarket.

Jack Hobbs finished second behind his stable companion Golden Horn after starting favourite for the Dante Stakes at York last week, a key trial for the Derby on 6 June. That was his first start in Group company and only the third race of his career, after victories in a maiden event on the all-weather surface at Wolverhampton in December and a 10-furlong handicap at Sandown in late April.

“Jack Hobbs has run just three times and has shown remarkable progression,” John Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock adviser, said on Wednesday. “John Gosden, who also trained his sire Halling for us, has a high opinion of the colt. He has loads of scope and class and looks like the kind of horse that will only improve with age.”

Jack Hobbs has yet to be confirmed as a definite runner at Epsom, and was among Wednesday’s supplementary entries for the Irish Derby at The Curragh on 27 June. The Group Two King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot in mid-June has also been mentioned by Gosden as an alternative to a run at Epsom.

Prior to the sale, Rachel Hood, Gosden’s wife, was one of three partners in Jack Hobbs, who was bred at Willie Carson’s Minster Stud. While the deal is good news for Jack Hobbs’s previous owners, however, it is likely to signal the end of Frankie Dettori’s association with the colt.

Dettori has been aboard Jack Hobbs on his last two starts, but the rider who was the most familiar face of the Godolphin operation for nearly two decades until the autumn of 2012 is most unlikely to be asked to wear their silks once again.

Unless Godolphin’s Best Of Times, a runner in the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood on Friday, proves himself a more credible Derby candidate than Jack Hobbs, the ride on Jack Hobbs seems sure to be taken by one of Godolphin’s retained jockeys, William Buick and James Doyle. Since Buick was aboard Golden Horn in the Dante, Doyle appears to be the obvious candidate if Jack Hobbs does indeed line up for the Epsom Classic next month.

Coolmore Stud, the world’s most extensive and successful commercial stallion operation, has secured the breeding rights to American Pharoah, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, who will attempt to become the first horse since 1978 to complete the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes on 6 June.

Ahmed Zayat, the breeder and owner of American Pharoah, said on Tuesday evening that plans for the colt’s stallion career had been finalised, and Coolmore confirmed on Wednesday that the son of Pioneerof The Nile, who was also bred and owned by Zayat, will retire to its Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

“Whatever happens in the Belmont, American Pharoah is an outstanding sire prospect and we’re very grateful to the Zayat family for entrusting us with his stallion career,” Dermot Ryan, the manager of Ashford Stud, said. “He’s already a champion two-year-old and has won his first four starts at three by over 30 lengths. It’s very exciting to think about how much more he might achieve.”

No value has been placed on the deal, which also includes significant additional payments if American Pharoah wins the Belmont, secures further Grade One wins or is named America’s Horse Of The Year, which would be no more than a formality if he takes the Triple Crown.

Affirmed, the last winner of the Triple Crown, was syndicated to stand as a stallion for $14.4m, which in terms of its purchasing power is the equivalent of just over $50m today. At the time, it was the most valuable stallion syndication that US racing had seen, dividing the breeding rights to Affirmed into 36 shares, each of which entitled the holder to send one mare to be covered by the stallion during each breeding season.

Coolmore’s dominance of international bloodstock, however, is based on a different business model. Instead of restricting covers by a stallion to shareholders in a syndicate, Coolmore adopts a much more commercial approach, buying and standing potential stallions and, for the most part, allowing any breeder with a mare and the money to pay for a cover to use the stallion of their choice.

If American Pharoah ends US racing’s 37-year wait for a Triple Crown winner, the demand among breeders for his services will be immense. A Kentucky Derby winner of 40 years ago might have been expected to sire no more than 50 or 60 foals each year, but Coolmore’s most high-profile and popular stallions – such as Galileo, the 2001 Derby winner – can cover nearly 200 mares during the five-month breeding season. As a result, $50m seems a minimum for the probable value of Zayat’s deal with Coolmore if American Pharoah keeps his part of the bargain and completes the Triple Crown.

Given the sums to to be made from the colt once his racing days are over, and the immense valuation that is effectively being supported by four fragile legs, it is also hard to imagine that he will race as a four-year-old, although Zayet suggested in an interview on Tuesday that his colt will at least continue in training for the remainder of this season, regardless of the result at Belmont next month.

“I continue to own 100% of American Pharoah,” Zayat told US website The Paulick Report. “He will race under my ownership, my management and my silks. The decisions regarding racing are mine. If he wins the Triple Crown, I will race him at least through his three-year-old season. We will continue to enjoy him.”

Since Affirmed completed the Triple Crown, 13 horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and 12 then went to post for the Belmont, for the most part as short-priced favourites. All have failed to complete the Crown, however, with the most agonising near-miss of all being Real Quiet’s defeat by a nose in 1998. Real Quiet was trained by Bob Baffert, who also trains American Pharaoh.

American Pharoah is currently offered at a shade of odds-against by British bookmakers to succeed where Real Quiet failed. Baffert was also responsible for two more Triple Crown failures in the Belmont, Silver Charm and War Emblem, in 1997 and 2002 respectively.

Sizing Europe, one of the most popular and durable National Hunt performers of recent seasons, has been retired, Henry de Bromhead, who trained Sizing Europe to win 22 of his 45 career starts, said on Wednesday.

Now 13, Sizing Europe recorded his first Grade One success in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January 2008. His eight-length defeat of Hardy Eustace, the 2005 Champion Hurdle winner, was so convincing that he started favourite for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham a few weeks later, only to fade rapidly in the straight after travelling like a winner down the hill to the home turn.

That was one of very few disappointments in his career, however, and his subsequent victories included the Arkle Trophy Novice Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2010 and the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the same meeting 12 months later. In all, he recorded eight successes at Grade One level and ended his career with prize-money earnings of £1.3m.

“We gave it a good bit of thought and we’re happy that he’s retiring in one piece,” de Bromhead, who trained Sizing Europe for Ann and Alan Potts, said on Wednesday.

“He’s had a great career and there have been so many great days it would be difficult to say one was the highlight. We had some great days in Cheltenham but there were also great days in Punchestown, Leopardstown and [the Tingle Creek Chase at] Sandown.

“He’s going to take part in racehorse-to-riding shows now. He’s been the horse of a lifetime, really.”

Andrew Lynch, Sizing Europe’s jockey for 15 of his 17 wins, said that the chaser had been “unbelievable” for his career.

“We had some fantastic days,” Lynch said. “There were the two winners at Cheltenham and then for him to go and win [the Champion Chase] in Punchestown last year just capped it all off.

“It’s been a brilliant training performance from Henry and all the lads in the yard to keep him so fresh and well for so long. He was a brilliant jumper, I think he only fell once in his life and that was over hurdles with Ruby [Walsh] riding him. He was just a brilliant horse with a massive heart.”

Free Eagle, the early favourite to win the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh on Sunday, has been ruled out of the race after he was found to be suffering from a head cold.

“Free Eagle has picked up a head cold and we’ve decided to be cautious,” Dermot Weld, the colt’s trainer, said on Wednesday.

“The weather has been very changeable and apart from the head cold he is fine. But he won’t be running on Sunday and we will train him for Royal Ascot where he will have a choice of engagements.”

In Free Eagle’s absence, the betting for Sunday’s race is dominated by runners from British stables. Kevin Ryan’s four-year-old The Grey Gatsby, the winner of the French Derby and Irish Champion Stakes in 2014, is the new favourite at around 5-4, while Roger Charlton’s Al Kazeem, who beat the 2012 Derby winner Camelot to win the race two seasons ago, is next in the betting at 11-4. Postponed, who won the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last summer for Luca Cumani, is a 4-1 chance and it is 10-1 bar.

Cirrus Des Aigles, last year’s Coronation Cup winner, is among 13 horses still engaged in the Group One event at Epsom on Derby day after the latest entry stage. However, Corine Barande-Barbe will not commit the gelding to the field until after Sunday’s Prix D’Ispahan at Longchamp, in which Cirrus Des Aigles has six possible opponents including Freddy Head’s Solow, the impressive winner of the Dubai Turf at Meydan in March.

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