If you haven’t seen a replay of the Group 2 Coutts Goodwood Cup, yesterday’s 3:25 at Glorious Goodwood, get a free subscription to Thoroughbred Daily News (TDN) and watch it right away. The race was cinematic on many levels!
First off, it’s not often that we (in the US) get a chance to see top-quality 2-mile events, much less one over a course like Goodwood’s, with it’s unique layout, turns, and uphill grades. Second, the race featured a favorite, German-bred Schiaparelli, with leading-man looks, proven Group 1 form, and top-drawer breeding: On film, the massive chestnut stands out from the field, and on paper his pedigree is just as distinct. Third, the leading man had a capable foil in the race in globetrotter Mourilyan, an Irish-bred. Finally, the exciting finish between the two was also a grudge match between their owners, Godolphin and Ramzan Kadyrov, which added international political intrigue to the race because Sheikh Mohammed, the Ruler of Dubai, controls Godolphin, and Mr. Kadyrov is the President of Chechnya, installed there by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The feud between Dubai and Chechnya boiled over on Dubai World Cup day when a well-known foe of Kadyrov’s, Sulim Yamadayev, was assassinated at the Jumeirah Beach Residence, where he’d been living incognito. The chief suspect for masterminding the hit, according to the Dubai police chief, was Mr. Kadyrov’s right-hand man and cousin. Yamadayev fled to Dubai in late 2008 after his brother Ruslan was assassinated in Moscow last September, and on Tuesday this week in Moscow, two days before the Goodwood Cup, an assassination attempt also was made on Yamadayev’s brother Isa, who survived a bullet to the back.
With this intrigue as a backdrop, the 10 horses were sent on their way in the 3:25 at Glorious Goodwood. Godolphin’s royal blue silks were always prominent throughout the race as Frankie Dettori had the free-running Schiaparelli placed in the first three, as the 8-year-old US-bred Smart Strike gelding Tungsten Strike led for most of the race, followed by the 12-year-old German-bred Lando gelding Caracciola. Kadyrov’s maroon silks with emerald green and white-stripped sleeves were barely visible aboard Mourilyan, who was held up one from last for most of the race.
A son of the outstanding German-bred-and-based stallion Monsun, Schiaparelli won the Group 1 German Derby, as well as three other Group 1 events in Germany and Italy, and was purchased by Godolphin as a future stallion prospect to race in the Arc last year. His full brother, Samum, won the German Derby in 2000 and is now a promising sire, and their full sister, Salve Regina, won the Group 1 German Oaks in 2002 and also was second in the German Derby. Sheikh Mohammed is a believer in the Monsun line and has bet on it heavily by purchasing Monsun’s French and English Group 1 winner Manduro and his German Derby and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, Shirocco, to stand at stud.
Mr. Kadyrov is the Bizaro World’s version of Sheikh Mohammed. He, too, buys proven runners, but they aren’t quite as accomplished as the ones the sheikh purchases. Mourilyan, for example, is an ex-Aga Khan horse by Desert Prince who’s yet to win a Group race, although he’s placed in several. He was trained by South African Herman Brown over the winter for Mr. Kadyrov, but he’s trained in Europe by Gary Moore. The long-term target for the horse, according to Brown, is the Pellegrini in Argentina in December.
Mr. Kadyrov’s best results have come in Russia, yet he’s still flopped with some expensive purchases for Russia’s two biggest races, the President’s Cup and the Russian Derby. For the former, he purchased Bronze Cannon, who’d defeated Godolphin’s Campanologist in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot this year, but he only managed a fourth-place finish in Moscow; for the latter, in 2008, he bought Racecar Rhapsody— fourth in the Preakness — but that colt also was only fourth in the Russian Derby. This year Mr. Kadyrov has purchased the US-bred Russian 2000 Guineas winner Indian Jameson for the Russian Derby next month.
The stretch run of the Goodwood Cup was thrilling. Schiaparelli had opened up an easy three lengths on the field and looked like he’d gallop away, but Mourilyan — all out — put in a determined run that brought him to within a length of the winner. Although Schiaparelli never really looked as if he’d lose, Mourilyan probably ran the race of his life, and by getting that close to the winner he put his owner’s silks alongside those of Godolphin’s in the picture frame — a reminder that it was more than just a horse race.