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The blue army and our greatest race

November 1, 2011

The world’s largest racing operation Godolphin have long targeted Australia’s great race, the Melbourne Cup.

Indeed, there is a special place in their headquarters in Dubai saved for the famous three-handled loving cup, the most prized trophy in Australian sport.

Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai and the force behind Godolphin, has stated that the Melbourne Cup and Kentucky Derby remain the two elusive races which they are desperate to win.

This year, they are back again with Goodwood Cup runner-up Lost In The Moment and new recruit Modun.

Both horses are unfancied, but the stable’s best results have come from horses who have not been high in markets.

They have had four placegetters – Central Park, who finished second to Rogan Josh in 1999; Give The Slip, arguably unlucky not to defeat Ethereal in 2001; Beekeeper, third to Media Puzzle in 2002; and Crime Scene, second to Shocking in 2009.

Interestingly, only Beekeeper was considered any chance by bookmakers, the horse rated an 8/1 fifth favourite.

Central Park (50/1), Give The Slip (33/1) and Crime Scene (40/1) were virtually ignored by punters in the lead up to the event, a scenario which has been repeated with Godolphin’s two representatives this year.

Outside of their placegetters, there has not been much joy with eleven other runners finishing unplaced.

They first brought a horse to Melbourne in 1998, with the classy Faithful Son their first runner in the Melbourne Cup.

He struggled at the distance and finished a creditable seventh.

A year later, they were widely expected to win with Europe’s champion stayer Kayf Tara, who was posted a dominant favourite for the race.

However, a suspensory injury saw him forced out of the race, with Central Park flying the Godolphin flag gamely.

Lightning Arrow represented the boys in blue in 2000, but finished a well beaten 17th behind Brew.

It was more notable for bringing winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy to the attention of Sheikh Mohammed, with the boy from Streaky Bay eventually becoming Godolphin’s second jockey.

Give The Slip led until the shadows of the post in 2001, with subsequent Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner Marienbard labouring in seventh.

2002 was seen pre-race as the strongest contingent to have come from Dubai, with Irish St Leger Pugin and VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Hatha Anna joining the emerging Beekeeper in the race.

But Pugin and Hatha Anna both disappointed, with Beekeeper a strong third.

The following year was a watershed for Godolphin.

Mamool started a heavily backed favourite, with Millstreet also having his each way supporters, but they finished last and second last respectively.

It was at this point that Godolphin changed focus, with future attempts on the Cup involving different types of horses compared to the past.

Effectively, it was an attempt to avoid the embarrassment of 2003.

Mamool returned the following year with Razkalla, and while both finished top 10, neither ever looked a winning hope.

It would be their last Melbourne Cup runner until 2009, with horses like Fight Your Corner and All The Good going amiss in Melbourne and not making it to Flemington.

However, they would return strongly, with Crime Scene defeating all bar Shocking.

Last year, Holberg was unsuited to a wet track and after a wide passage, finished a credible sixth, while Campanologist was well beaten.

They will be hoping they can finally break through for a maiden Melbourne Cup success this year.

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