Kentucky Derby to set the scene for summer rivalry between Coolmore and Godolphin

Mendelssohn ridden by Ryan Moore winning the UAE Derby at Meydan Rearlier this year.
Updated 05 May 2018

Kentucky Derby to set the scene for summer rivalry between Coolmore and Godolphin

  • Kentucky Derby promises to be great battle at Churchill Downs with Ryan Moore looking to add to his impressive CV of race wins.
  • Godolphin looking to upset Coolmore's dream with its impressive runner, Masar.

This has been five years in the making. Ryan Moore will finally get his chance to ride in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday when he partners the UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn in Louisville.
In 2013 Moore rode at the meeting and was so transfixed by the experience that he vowed to return. The British jockey is a man of few words, but the then 29-year-old was “staggered” by the atmosphere generated by the 151,616 racegoers below Churchill Downs’ famous twin spires.
He believed at the time that there was no comparison to what he had seen. For a man who has won eight British Classics, a Melbourne Cup, two Prix De l’Arc de Triomphes, a Japan Cup and four Breeders’ Cup Turfs that is quite a statement.
On paper, Mendlessohn has a serious chance. He beat Kentucky Oaks contender Rayya at Meydan by an eye-popping 18 and a half lengths. Although it was a visually stunning performance, he stopped the clock impressively, too. By finishing second, Rayya beat her time in the UAE Oaks over the same course and distance by over a second. As he dismounted from the monstrous colt, Moore said that the precious son of deceased sire Scat Daddy could only get better.
MV Magnier was instrumental in purchasing Mendelssohn for the Coolmore syndicate for $3 million at the Keeneland September sale in 2016. He was impressed by the colt’s physique and has been dreaming of this moment ever since.
“The Kentucky Derby was always the dream,” Magnier revealed.
“If we thought he could be half as good as (half sister) Beholder and get him to win on the dirt it is something we aimed to do, but we aim quite a lot and don’t always hit.
“Ryan said afterwards that he was a bit green and he said there was plenty of improvement, so hopefully we will see it in Kentucky.”
The race known as the “Run For the Roses” is the jewel in a Trans-Atlantic Group One Triple Crown this weekend that sees Coolmore up against Godolphin in all three rounds. 
Moore has forsaken the opportunity to win a third English 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday by spurning the saddles of Gustav Klimt, widely considered the favorite for the British Classic, and his stablemate Saxon Warrior, who many believe is the English Derby winner-in-waiting. Murillo also runs for Coolmore, most likely as pacemaker, while Godolphin rely on the runaway Craven Stakes winner Masar.
Moore will fly back to Newmarket from Kentucky on Saturday night to partner Happily in the English 1,000 Guineas on Sunday. Stablemates I Can Fly (Seamie Heffernan), Sizzling (Donnacha O’Brien) and Sarrochi form a fearsome quartet.
Up against them are Godolphin’s Soliloquy, the supplemented mount of William Buick, and Wild Illusion, who will be ridden by James Doyle.
It is a stretch to suggest that Godolphin’s Kentucky Derby challenger Enticed is a major threat to Mendelssohn, especially with unbeaten American colts such as Bob Baffert’s Justify and Magnum Moon alongside the once-beaten but highly-rated Audible also in the starting gates.
But when Moore was riding in Kentucky all those years ago, Godolphin were in a slump. Charlie Appleby had just replaced disgraced trainer Mahmood Al-Zarooni and top-flight winners were scarce. Since then, things have changed. Enticed, Masar, Wild Illusion and Soliloquy were all bred by the Dubai-based organization’s Darley operation. Last season Coolmore trainer Aidan O’Brien famously broke Bobby Frankel’s record of 25 Group One wins in a season with 28, but Godolphin pursued the Irishman around the world and ended up with an impressive 18.
Their rivalry is a strand that will thread through the fabric of the international season in 2018, and if Godolphin have one chance of knocking off their Irish rivals over the next two days it surely rests with Masar at Churchill Downs.
“I have been pleased with his preparation and he’s come out of the Craven in good order. I can’t give you a negative,” Appleby said.
“Based on what we saw in the Craven, we must go into Saturday’s race hoping that he is a serious contender. It’s an exciting weekend for the team and we hope that Masar has a decent chance.”
Roll on the weekend.


Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

Updated 21 January 2020

Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

  • High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire

CAIRO: There is little doubt that the switch by the Africa Cup of Nations from summer to winter competition will have a big impact on European competitions, with those at the top of the Premier League perhaps most affected.

The confederation confirmed that from 2021 when Cameroon will play host, the tournament will revert back to being played in January and February.

The tournament was moved to a June-July slot for last year’s edition in Egypt, which meant minimal disruption to the European domestic season. But plenty of Premier League managers will be left with problems this time next year, with several stars likely to leave for up to six weeks, including pre-tournament preparations.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp appears to face the biggest headache given that two of his star attacking players, Mohamed Salah from Egypt and Sadio Mane from Senegal, both featured in the African tournament last summer and are almost certain to be involved in the 2021 competition in some capacity.

High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire, while Manchester City will lose Riyad Mahrez should Algeria feature.

Klopp is critical of the decision to move the tournament dates, calling it “a catastrophe.” Salah and Mane’s absence would leave huge gaps in the Liverpool side. There is also Cameroon’s Joel Matip and Guinea’s Naby Keita to worry about. Matip has become solid at the back. Keita, too, would be a loss given his recent resurgence.

The Liverpool manager is upset because last year’s tournament was moved to mid-year to end a long-standing clash between clubs and countries over the release of their players. It was felt that common sense had prevailed when the tournament, which since 1960 had always been held during winter, reverted to summer. African players in western European clubs would no longer find themselves the target of competing claims for their attention every other season, which would benefit the players and their clubs and countries, and lead to fewer squabbles.

But then Cameroon changed its mind about hosting the tournament in summer next year, changing the dates from June and July to between Jan. 6 and Feb. 6. Why? The weather. It’s simply too hot in Cameroon in summer.

Organizers said they had agreed to the change after discussions with player and coach representatives.

But didn’t Cameroon know beforehand that its summers are too hot, too humid and right in the middle of its rainy season? That the country does not enjoy ideal conditions for football in summer could not have taken its organizers by complete surprise.

The situation serves as a vivid reminder of the botch-up of the 2022 Qatar World Cup. The host and FIFA decided that the World Cup, which is forever played in summer, would be moved to winter because of Qatar’s oppressive heat — but that decision came only after Qatar won the bid. That change, again, will mean a head-on clash with international tournaments and club competitions.

A football tournament simply cannot keep changing when it will be held as often as people change their socks. This is especially true for the Africa Cup of Nations, which is played every two years.

A major sports tournament must have fixed times. And, to be sure, its organizers should understand that you can’t please everybody. A championship’s times are bound to clash with some tournament or other. The African tournament, for example, will avoid a clash with FIFA’s revamped 24-team Club World Cup to be played in China in June and July 2021. But it cannot but conflict with European leagues. The important thing is to stay the course. Once a date is picked, it should be stuck to like glue.