Resurgent Godolphin unlikely to take on Coolmore in Irish Derby

New chief executive Joe Osborne says royal ascot ‘a huge boost to morale’

A resurgent Godolphin took its Coolmore Stud rival to the wire at Royal Ascot but a Dubai Duty Irish Derby head-to-head between racing's great superpowers is unlikely to happen at the Curragh this Saturday.

Godolphin's recently confirmed new chief executive Joe Osborne confirmed on Sunday the Derby is not on the agenda of last week's Royal Ascot winners Permian or Benbatl and indicated it is "unlikely" Sheikh Mohammed's team will be represented in the €1.5 million classic.

Both Permian, who won Friday’s King Edward VII Stakes, and the Hampton Court winner Benbatl would have to be supplemented into the Derby at Tuesday’s forfeit stage.

Best Solution, who finished behind Permian in the King Edward, is an entry and is a 20-1 shot in some ante-post betting lists for Ireland’s premier classic. Godolphin won the Irish Derby with Jack Hobbs two years ago but are unlikely to take on Coolmore in their own back yard this time.


“I will chat with the guys but I would say it is unlikely we will have an Irish Derby runner. It isn’t on Permian’s agenda, nor Benbatl’s, and I can’t think of anything else at this stage,” Osborne said.

The Irishman was appointed interim chief executive by Sheikh Mohammed following John Ferguson’s resignation earlier this month. He was confirmed in the position last week as Godolphin bounced back to form with a vengeance, notching six Royal Ascot winners.

That equalled Coolmore’s winning tally and the new ‘Leading Owner’ award was decided on ‘count back.’ The Coolmore partnership’s seven runner-up placings edged out Godolphin’s by one.

“It was a huge boost to morale, particularly for the European operation but also globally. Everyone knows how important Royal Ascot is and the fact Sheikh Mohammed was there added to it as well,” said Osborne.

Timely boost

It was certainly a timely boost to the new chief executive who is charged with overseeing a vast global bloodstock empire and rejuvenating its fortunes in the world’s biggest races.

Osborne, 54, was previously managing director of Sheikh Mohammed’s Kildangan Stud and is expected to remain based in Kildare.

His new appointment continues a long family association with the Maktoum family. His late father, Michael, set up Kildangan as the Sheikh's breeding base in Ireland and was instrumental in setting up the Dubai World Cup.

Osborne’s sister, Meta, is Senior Steward of the Turf Club, a role their father also held.

Godolphin has a significant numbers of horses in training in Ireland, including with Jim Bolger, Willie McCreery and Michael Halford. But its new chief executive doesn't envisage any implications from his appointment in terms of numbers of horses in training here.

“My job is a global remit. It’s about what is best for Sheikh Mohammed and his family overall rather than anything particularly pro-Irish. I can’t imagine many changes, either up or down,” Osborne added.

Aidan O’Brien has indicated his shock 40-1 Epsom hero Wings Of Eagles will attempt to become the 19th colt to complete the Derby double at the Curragh this weekend.

The colt is currently vying for favouritism with Cracksman who finished third at Epsom while the French Derby runner-up Waldgeist completes a trio of horses at the top of the betting for Saturday’s highlight.

O'Brien will hope to win the race a 12th time while the Coolmore syndicate headed by John Magnier aims to be involved in a 13th Irish Derby winner in the last two decades.

After picking up an eighth Leading Trainer award at Royal Ascot, O’Brien goes into Ireland’s richest race with his powerful Ballydoyle team in flying form after saddling six winners at the prestigious fixture..

“Every victory here is very important but I suppose you would have to be impressed with what Caravaggio did in the Commonwealth Cup. He’d had only one easy run coming in and he was just about ready to run. It was a tough race but he did it very well against some good horses,” he said.

Wings Of Eagles is likely to have Ryan Moore on his back when returning to action this weekend. The Englishman was again top rider at Royal Ascot with half a dozen winners and will try to break his Irish Derby duck on Saturday.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column