Godolphin's decorated trainers Saeed Bin Suroor (centre) and Charlie Appleby pose with jockey William Buick at Meydan. Image Credit: Gulf News archive

Dubai: For the first time in 22 years, Godolphin’s UK-based horses will not be embarking on a journey that will take them half way round the world to compete in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most famous race and the richest two-mile handicap in the world.

Racing Victoria confirmed on Tuesday that both Godolphin’s Newmarket-based trainers, Saeed Bin Surour and Charlie Appleby, have notified Australia’s racing officials that due to revised ‘stage four’ restrictions covering metropolitan Melbourne amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they will not be taking part this year.


“Both Saeed and Charlie have advised over the last few days that they won’t be coming to Melbourne this year,” said Paul Bloodworth, Racing Victoria general manager of international operations.

“Charlie Appleby advised last night that because of the change to stage four restrictions, he wasn’t comfortable sending his staff to Melbourne and Saeed has also advised he won’t be coming.

“It’s a great shame. Saeed has been a regular in Australia for 30 years and Charlie certainly over the last five or six years so it’s a shame they won’t be able to compete.”

The ‘stage four’ restrictions, which are in effect a lockdown rule aimed at controlling movement, stipulate that people are only allowed to leave their horses for four reasons: a) shopping for food and essential items b) care and caregiving c) daily exercise and d) work. Employers are encouraged to invited people work from home if possible.

It’s a great shame. Saeed has been a regular in Australia for 30 years and Charlie certainly over the last five or six years so it’s a shame they won’t be able to compete

- Paul Bloodworth, Racing Victoria general manager

The Melbourne Cup (G1) has always been high on the list of major races that Godolphin have sought to win since their first runner Faithful Son finished seventh in the race won by Jezabeel in 1998.

However, the dream became reality in 2018 when Cross Counter became gave them a first success in the race.

The win came 30 years after a horse called Authaal became Godolphin founder High Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai’s first runner in the 3,200 metre contest run at Melbourne’s Flemington Racecourse.

However, the Godolphin colours will not be missing in total at the Melbourne Spring Carnival which runs from September 5 through to November 22 where it showcases some of the richest and most prestigious races Australia has to offer.

Some of the feature Group One races run during the Melbourne Spring Carnival include the Caulfield Guineas, Caulfield Stakes, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup.

James Cummings, Godolphin’s head trainer in Australia, is assembling a string of elite horses he intends to run in the spring features.

28 runners for Cox Plate

Meanwhile, 28 international runners have been nominated for the Cox Plate on October 24, a lead-up race to the Melbourne Cup Carnival, with 22 representing Ireland’s powerful Ballydoyle stable.

The likes of Magical, Japan and Circus Maximus are among the high-profile runners for champion trainer Aidan O’Brien, while his son Donnacha is aiming to run recent Nassau Stakes winner Fancy Blue as well.

The 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko is on the list and Roger Charlton’s Aspetar, Gary Moore’s Crack On Crack On and Le Don De Vie, for Hughie Morrison, complete the four British-trained hopefuls.