All eyes on Godolphin as upheaval continues
When Sheikh Mohammed sat down and created Godolphin, his vision was for his ‘boys in blue’ to challenge Coolmore in the UK and eventually overtake them. He wanted to be the biggest and the best both on the track and off the track in the breeding barn. Sadly, despite millions of pounds being pumped into the operation, their challenge has never really mounted.
Success came in the early days but as they began to hold down a position at the top table of UK horse racing, constant upheaval slowed their progress. Just when Godolphin started to develop into a genuine challenger to Coolmore, another setback occurred and Sheikh Mohammed’s dream seemed even further away.
In December 2015, just 18 months ago, John Ferguson was appointed by Sheikh Mohammed to a duel role as both Racing Manager and Chief Executive Officer. The intentions were clear from Sheikh Mohammed, he wanted to pull together Godolphin, bring back the team ethos they started with and transform his labouring operation once again.
Unfortunately for the operation, John Ferguson resigned from his role on Tuesday, citing that he was unable to continue due to a breakdown with long-standing Godolphin trainer Saeed Bin Suroor.
Just days before this resignation, Bin Suroor had been highly critical of how his season had started and critical of the horses sent to him, decisions made by Ferguson.
With Bin Suroor being so close to Sheikh Mohammed, Ferguson didn’t really stand a chance after last week’s comments.
One of the biggest issues Bin Suroor had was his new crop of two year olds, something Ferguson would have had the final say on. It’s not too surprising though when you look at it, Bin Suroor hasn’t had a two year old runner this season.
Compare that to his fellow UK Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby who is currently sitting nicely with eight winners from 15 two year old runners, it’s easy to see why Bin Suroor is questioning Ferguson.
Another move Godolphin have made recently is to keep their purchases from other yards with their current trainers. This has seen Godolphin expand to have horses in the John Gosden, Richard Hannon, Richard Fahey and Clive Cox yards amongst others.
In days gone by, these horses would have been purchased over the winter and moved to Bin Suroor’s yard in time for the new season. This is another decision made by Ferguson, and another decision starving Bin Suroor of winners.
This is the latest chapter in a turbulent decade for Godolphin, and I doubt we have heard the last of this yet. With so much money and so much potential thanks to their breeding operation, Godolphin will always compete at the highest level.
However, Sheikh Mohammed wants to do more than compete, he wants to win and to do that you have to make tough decisions. After the resignation of John Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed has another tough decision to make, and that is who will replace him.
Whoever it is holds a vital role in transforming Godolphin, making them a team and fighting back against the powerhouse that is Coolmore.
Craig Jones writes about global horse racing for Knightsbridge Bloodstock