At Newbury last weekend Belardo bounced back to his best to provide Godolphin with successive wins in the £350,000 Group One Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (3.55pm) on a superb afternoon of racing at the Berkshire course.
The four-year-old, jointly owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s racing operation and Prince A A Faisal, was crowned Europe’s champion juvenile in 2014 following victory in the Group One Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket prior to a frustrating campaign last year.
Sent off an 8/1 chance after finishing a never-nearer fourth in the Group Two 365 Mile at Sandown Park, the Roger Varian-trained colt broke slowly for Andrea Atzeni but travelled well towards the rear of the 12 runners before swooping to take the advantage with about half a furlong left.
He went clear in the closing stages for a length success over 12/1 shot Euro Charline (Marco Botti/Ryan Moore), with a neck back to Irish raider Endless Drama (8/1, Ger Lyons/Colin Keane).
3/1 favourite Limato (Henry Candy/Harry Bentley) kept on to take fourth with last year’s runner-up Toormore (9/2, Richard Hannon/James Doyle) fading to fifth after leading for a couple of furlongs when the Godolphin pacemaker Barchan dropped out with three furlongs remaining.
It was a record seventh success for Godolphin in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, with their previous winners having included Cape Cross (1998), Farhh (2013) and last year’s victor Night Of Thunder.
Roger Varian said: “Belardo salvaged his career last year when chasing home Solow at Ascot and that really told us that we ought to keep him in training. To win a race like this is why connections have kept him in training, so I am delighted for Sheikh Mohammed and his Godolphin operation and Prince Faisal. They have kept patience with the trainer and have been rewarded now.”
“I have always kept faith in the horse because his work at home was outstanding and he has got masses of talent. We messed him around a bit last year, to be fair. We had him ready for races and then we didn’t run because of the firm ground. We dropped him back to six furlongs at Haydock but he is not a sprinter.”
“I probably messed about with him too much but he came back and told us what a good horse he was when chasing Solow at Ascot. The team at home have done a fantastic job and I am delighted for connections and delighted for the horse as well because I thought he deserved another big one.”
“His run at Sandown was a race to put a line through. He put up a good performance that day but I kicked myself after for running a pacemaker because we got a bit too strung out on a turning track and it just didn’t work out. Most people who watched the race would feel that the horse put up a solid performance and it might have been a different result under different circumstances. We hadn’t lost faith and certainly felt that he had a chance today.”
“I didn’t want to be so far behind early but he wasn’t great coming out of the gates and he is a horse who loves coming through horses. I was happy throughout the race but I was worried a furlong from home when he wasn’t getting light to come between horses.”
“When Andrea pulled him out to go round them, I was worried that he might just throw it away going left-handed but he straightened himself out and won well on the line.”
“He will certainly be trained for Royal Ascot now and, God willing, we get there in one piece.”
Andrea Atzeni commented: “The last time I sat on Belardo in a race was the Dewhurst – I have galloped him once since – and it was great to be back on him. He is a good horse on his day and I would like to thank His Highness Sheikh Mohammed for letting me ride him. It’s a pleasure to be back on him.”
“They went quick and he sort of half fell out of the stalls but that’s him and he travelled well into the race. Once I got a bit of daylight, he picked up well like he can do, so it was great.”
“The ground is on the easy side of good and he probably needs a bit of cut to be at his very best. On his day, he is very good.”
The very speedy Macs Angel will prove hard to beat in the Temple Stakes at Haydock Park on Saturday.
Yours In Sport!