December 15, 2018

Godolphin’s Masar becomes third generation Epsom Derby hero

Masar joins sire New Approach and grandsire Galileo on the Epsom honor roll (Photo courtesy Racenews)

Ten years after sire New Approach, and 17 years after paternal grandsire Galileo, Godolphin’s Masar rolled to victory in Saturday’s £1.5 million Derby (G1) at Epsom. A 16-1 overlay after a third to red-hot Derby favorite Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas (G1), the homebred turned the tables on the 4-5 shot who could do no better than a lackluster fourth.

Masar handed Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick their first Derby win. He was also the first Derby hero to sport the Godolphin royal blue silks. Godolphin’s only prior winner, Lammtarra, raced in the green-and-white of Saeed Maktoum al Maktoum. Fittingly, Masar is a descendant of Lammtarra, sire of his third dam Melikah.

Saxon Warrior was bidding to quash concerns about the unfavorable post 1, but the Aidan O’Brien trainee didn’t help himself by taking a stumbling step out of the gate. Regrouping for Ryan Moore, the hitherto unbeaten Triple Crown hope settled in midpack on the fence, with Masar parked on his outside.

As expected, the pace was swift as Knight to Behold went forward, attended by O’Brien’s Kew Gardens Yet another Ballydoyle runner, The Pentagon, sat in third, covering up the Aga Khan’s Hazapour who traveled well tucked just behind.

The leaders lasted until the straight, when Hazapour took over. Wider out, however, Masar, Dee Ex Bee, and Roaring Lion were gearing up. Saxon Warrior was stuck behind that wall of horses after Moore steered him off the rail. The favorite couldn’t be considered unlucky, however, for he wasn’t showing his usual gears and already coming under pressure without much of a response.

William Buick exults in his first Derby win (Photo courtesy of Epsom via Facebook)

Masar packed the strongest punch, surging past Hazapour and outkicking the dour Dee Ex Bee by 1 1/2 lengths. Roaring Lion loomed but couldn’t reel in Masar, and Dee Ex Bee stayed on resolutely to regain second by a half-length. It was a Darley sire exacta, as Dee Ex Bee is from the first crop of Farhh. The runner-up’s trainer, Mark Johnston, named the St Leger (G1) as his long-term goal.

Kentucky-bred Roaring Lion, by Kitten’s Joy, did well for a grandson of Santa Anita downhill specialist Cambiocorsa. But trainer John Gosden’s surely right to drop the sensational Dante (G2) winner back to 1 1/4 miles in the July 7 Eclipse (G1).

Saxon Warrior, whose head was cocked as he vainly tried to organize himself, crossed the wire a further 2 1/2 lengths adrift in fourth. Considering that he’d beaten Masar in the Guineas, and twice defeated Roaring Lion, the son of Deep Impact did not run up to form. The reasons are still to be determined. One hypothesis is that his rivals moved forward on the step up to 1 1/2 miles, but his stamina was found wanting in a fast-run race. Another, suggested by O’Brien, is that he wasn’t handling the big occasion, and couldn’t find his groove around Epsom’s unique contours. The awkward start might have been a sign that he was out of sorts on the day, and not just a random occurrence.

In any event, this was an uncharacteristically tame Saxon Warrior. O’Brien mentioned the Irish Derby (G1) as a possibility, pending how he comes back. But if Masar goes elsewhere, I would be sorely tempted to give Saxon Warrior a chance at revenge. Perhaps best of all would be a reunion of the familiar foes in the Eclipse.

Hazapour tired late in fifth, the best finish of those in closest proximity to the leader. The Dermot Weld pupil ran like one who was just outstayed, although he’d be worth trying over the trip again with a less taxing tempo.

Aside from the disappointing effort by Saxon Warrior, the biggest surprise was that none of O’Brien’s quintet cracked the top three. Delano Roosevelt (sixth) and The Pentagon (eighth) couldn’t come as close to Hazapour as they did in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (G3); Kew Gardens faded to ninth; and longshot Zabriskie was a tailed-off last with Padraig Beggy, who rode 40-1 shocker Wings of Eagles last year.

The William Haggas-trained Young Rascal was unable to confirm the form of his Chester Vase (G3) win over Dee Ex Bee, winding up a non-threatening seventh. Sevenna Star (10th) likely needs a more galloping track, and Knight to Behold (11th) was burned up by a stiffer pace than at Lingfield.

Masar clocked 2:34.93 on ground that had been upgraded to “good,” the drying out process helped by a warm, sunny day.

The most experienced in the field with eight previous starts, Masar also has logged more travel miles than the typical Derby winner. After scoring a Goodwood maiden on debut, the chestnut finished third to September in the Chesham at Royal Ascot. Masar returned from a midsummer freshening to take the Solario (G3) at Sandown, beating future Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) hero Romanised.

Soft ground at Chantilly blunted his finish in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1), where he placed third to O’Brien’s filly Happily and future French 2000 Guineas (G1) victor Olmedo. Worse luck was to follow in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar, between a checkered passage and Buick’s losing an iron. His sixth to Mendelssohn is a classic what-might-have-been.

Wintering in Dubai, Masar tried his hand on dirt in the March 10 Al Bastakiya but did not enjoy the surface and trudged home a remote 10th. But it wasn’t a total loss from the strategic perspective. Appleby accomplished his aim of getting a run into a colt who was tearing the yard down.

Masar resurfaced in the April 19 Craven (G3) at Newmarket and pummeled them on the front end by nine lengths. While odds-on Roaring Lion needed that pipe-opener in third, Masar beat him again in the Guineas as they finished third and fifth, respectively.

The Irish-bred Masar is inbred to blue hen Urban Sea. That 1993 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) heroine appears as the dam of Galileo as well as in Masar’s direct female line via stakes-winning daughter Melikah, placed in both the Epsom and Irish Oaks (G1) in 2000. Melikah has produced Group 2 scorer Masterstroke, third in the 2012 Arc; multiple Group 3 winner Moonlight Magic; Group 2-placed stakes victress Hidden Gold; and Villarrica, dam of Group 2 hero Vancouverite and Khawlah, Masar’s dam.

Khawlah made history at the 2011 Dubai Carnival by turning the UAE Oaks(G3)/Derby (G2) double, and she remains the only filly to beat the boys in Meydan’s signature race for three-year-olds. So you could say that Masar is the son of two Derby winners, so to speak. Khawlah’s pedigree echoes the all-time great 2009 Guineas/Derby/Arc winner Sea the Stars, being by his sire Cape Cross and descending from his dam, Urban Sea.

Quotes from Racenews

Winning trainer Charlie Appleby: “All I could think of in the last furlong was that I wanted to be the first trainer to win the Derby in the Godolphin blue. It was a fantastic team effort. Brett Doyle (former jockey) rides him every day and has been so sweet on him since the 2000 Guineas. We just wanted to get him to switch off and we thought he’d stay. William’s given him a brilliant ride but the last 100 yards seemed a long time!

“It’s such a special day with the Royal family being here. This season, we’ve just been knocking on the door and it was the same story yesterday (Wild Illusion runner-up as 5-2 favorite in the Oaks [G1]). Obviously, I went home a bit disappointed, and it was a long drive home, but that’s the great thing about His Highness (Sheikh Mohammed ), he told me not to worry and that we’d try next year.

“So I came here today very relaxed and just wanted the horse to do his best. It’s been so good. It still hasn’t sunk in and it probably won’t for days or even weeks. I was always just hoping the door was going to open for us this season and, to be honest, I did think it was going to be yesterday.

Sheikh Mohammed celebrates with winning trainer Charlie Appleby (Photo courtesy Racenews)

Godolphin impresario Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum: “It is something special to win the Derby. I am very happy that he has won today and very proud that the horse has come from Dubai.

“My daughter is here (Sheikha al Jalila, whose horses carry Sheikh Mohammed’s old maroon and white silks) and she brought all the luck.

“I was confident during the race as I thought William was going very well but before the race, I don’t know.

“We knew that the favorite was a very good horse but we liked our horse too. I wasn’t nervous in the last part of the race – I was excited and jumping around!

“Horses are my blood so this is a very special day for me. I love horses and I love racing.”

Sheikh Mohammed’s wife, Princess Haya of Jordan, who campaigned New Approach: “I am so happy for Sheikh Mohammed, who so deserved it. Everyone in the team has worked so hard for this.”

Jockey William Buick on winning his first Derby: “I am not going to explain myself very well but it’s huge, it’s massive.

“I have had a few rides in the race and come close a couple of times. I think this is my seventh or eighth Derby ride (eighth) and I know some people have ridden more Derbys without winning, but there were a couple of times when I was thinking ‘is my time ever going to come?’

“To do it for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and his family in the famous royal blue – they are very loyal supporters of me and I am just very, very happy to be part of it.

“He stayed the trip and traveled beautifully today. The Guineas didn’t happen for him but he is a very good horse and the team believed in him. I am just very pleased.

“I have dreamed of this since I wanted to be a jockey. This is everything.

“I knew before the race that he would be a straightforward ride in the Derby. Charlie was very confident that this horse would stay and convinced me he would stay.

“It is something really special. It’s the pinnacle of our sport, the Holy Grail, the be-all and end-all of everything.”

Trainer Mark Johnston on runner-up Dee Ex Bee: “Franny Norton, who rode him at Chester, said he’s not really an Epsom horse, he’s too big for this track and he did struggle – he rolled into one on the inside, he struggled a little on the track.”

Trainer John Gosden on Roaring Lion’s third: “Roaring Lion is growing up a lot and he’s still improving, and he stayed straight as an arrow today. Take nothing from the winner, we were following him, but he outstayed us. Our horse really is a mile and a quarter horse.”

Trainer Aidan O’Brien on Saxon Warrior, beaten at odds-on in fourth: “I wouldn’t be making excuses for Saxon Warrior. We’ll take him home and see how he is.

“Everything out there today at Epsom might just have been new to them and it would have been a big shock to him coming to this track, but I don’t know.

“When Ryan dropped down him, he just kept on going without really showing a turn of foot.

“It was a whole new experience with him and I suppose he found everything a bit different.

“We’ll see how he is but we could head to the Irish Derby. He has run on very easy, uncomplicated tracks and this is the first complicated track he has had to handle.

“Saxon Warrior might have just got in awe of everything, but I wouldn’t take anything away from the winner – he just didn’t fire. His next run might tell us a lot.”

Jockey Ryan Moore on Saxon Warrior: “He just didn’t pick up. Maybe it was the track or the ground but I just don’t think he fired.

“These races are always tight – the winner got first run and I followed him through so I can’t have too many excuses.”