Dubai: Godolphin’s relentless pursuit of global success continues on Sunday when the Dubai-owned stable takes aim at Group 1 prizes in France and Japan.
Charlie Appleby, fresh from saddling the first two home in the Group 3 Prix de la Porte Maillot at Longchamp in Paris, sends out his globe-trotting star Old Persian to contest the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud over 2,400 metres.
Interestingly, Godolphin have yet to win the race although its founder, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has won the race twice in the past with Carnegie in 1995 and In The Wings in 1990.
Old Persian (Mickael Barzalona) captured the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan in the UAE and Canada’s Northern Dancer Turf Stakes during a busy 2019 campaign.
The globe-trotting son of Dubawi makes his first start since a 11th-place effort in the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita, USA, in November.
His trainer Appleby told the Godolphin website: “Old Persian enjoyed a nice winter off out in Dubai after doing a lot of travelling last year. It was a disappointing run at the Breeders’ Cup but it came at the end of a long season and the way the race panned out didn’t suit him.
“He has been freshened up for hopefully a nice European campaign over the summer and we have been pleased with his preparation. If he brings his A game, he will be very competitive.”
Persian King, winner of the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas) and runner-up in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) lines-up in the G2 Prix du Muguet over a mile.
Meanwhile at the Japan Racing Association-owned Hanshin Racecourse, African Gold takes on some of the country’s top middle-distance stars in the prestigious Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen over 11 furlongs. The winner of the race will receive an automatic berth and fees paid into the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at historic Keeneland in November.
The Masato Nishizono-trained five-year-old enjoyed a fine 2019 campaign. After comfortably winning the 12-furlong Rokusha Stakes at Tokyo in October, the son of Stay Gold returned to the same course the following month to finish third in the Group 2 Copa Republica Argentina over half a furlong further.
African Gold has enjoyed Stakes success at Hanshin, scoring by four lengths in the Hyogo Tokubetsu over a mile-and-a-half in 2018.
Harry Sweeney, President of Godolphin in Japan, said on the stable’s website: “It is a really big ask for African Gold in the Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen. His best run in a 17-race career to date was third in a G2, so it is not really realistic to expect him to feature on Sunday. All that been said however, in his recent runs in Group races, he has only been three to four lengths off the winner and has never been disgraced.
“He has previously won in Hanshin over 12 furlongs but it is our opinion that he may be better suited by a slightly shorter trip, so we feel that the 11-furlong distance on Sunday will be ideal. His best runs have all been on firm ground and we would like similar on Sunday but, as it is the rainy season, that is in no way guaranteed.
“African Gold will be ridden by Kanichiro Fujii who is probably better known outside Japan. Though Japanese, he plied his trade at first in South Korea and Australia, where he rode more than 450 winners, but has now been granted a JRA license and started back riding in his homeland from January of this year.”
The field is led by multiple Group 1 stakes-winning mare Lucky Lilac and last year’s Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas) winner Saturnalia.
A field of 18 has been entered for the contest which is one of the two “All-Star” races in Japanese horse racing; the other being the Arima Kinen (the Grand Prix) in late December.