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Sheikh Mohammed's best horses - Eight of the best horses to have carried the famous maroon silks

Sheikh Mohammed (right) now heads the Godolphin operation, but there were many notable winners to have carried his famous maroon and white silks.

Brian Healy looks back on the racing careers of some of the best horses to have carried Sheikh Mohammed's famous maroon and white colours, which made a return to the racetrack recently at Sandown.


On Friday 1 September, a once-familiar sight returned to the racecourse at Sandown as Graffiti Master carried the once-famous maroon and white silks of Sheikh Mohammed.

The instantly recognisable maroon silks with the white sleeves and star on a maroon cap were once synonymous with high-class performers in the 80s and early 90s, but they were largely retired in Britain once Sheikh Mohammed kickstarted his Godolphin operation and the famous silks disappeared from British racecourses although they continued to appear internationally on occasion.

The famous silks now represent Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter, and run under the banner of HH Sheikha Al Jalila Racing; while it wasn’t a successful return for those famous silks on this occasion, there may well be more runners to come in Britain sporting those colours.

The famous colours of Sheikh Mohammed were worn by some of the very best horses in Britain throughout the 80s, and we take a look back at some top stars who carried those famous colours to victory under the care of top trainers such as the late Sir Henry Cecil and Clive Brittain, David Loder, John Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute.

PEBBLES

A winner of eight of her fifteen starts, Pebbles was trained by Clive Brittain, and after showing ability as a juvenile in the 1983 season the daughter of Sharpen Up would go on to to win the Nell Gwyn Stakes prior to becoming a Classic winner when taking the 1000 Guineas.

The first filly to win the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, she would go on to beat a exceptional field of rivals to land the Champion Stakes , beating the likes of Palace Music, Slip Anchor and Commanche Run.
She rounded off her glittering career when becoming the first British-trained horse to capture a race at the Breeders’ Cup meeting when winning the 1985 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Pebbles is widely regarded as one of the greatest modern era fillies, and one of Sheikh Mohammed’s best ever horses, although her early career was spent under the ownership of her breeder, Marcos Lemos. Sheikh Mohammed bought the Sharpen Up filly ahead of her 1000 Guineas success but elected not to contest the Epsom Oaks and instead sent her to Ascot for the Coronation Stakes where she was beaten behind Irish 1000 Guineas winner Katies.

Clive Brittain believed the trip beat his stable star, having trained her for the Oaks, and a lack of preparation for the one mile trip at Ascot was the deciding factor in her defeat.

Partial to a pint of Guinness, she spent her last days at the Darley Stud’s Japanese farm where she died in 2005 having amassed more than £1million in prize money throughout her career.



OH SO SHARP

The Irish-bred Oh So Sharp raced nine times in her career for the late Sir Henry Cecil, winning seven of those starts which included victories in the 1985 1000 Guineas and the Epsom Oaks.

The Kris filly would then add the St Leger to her trophy haul to become a Triple Crown winner, prior to being retired at the end of that season.

She was the top-rated three-year old filly in Europe following that stellar season, where she also won the Nell Gwyn Stakes, and her winning time in the Newmarket Classic shattered the course record which had stood since 1950 as well as give Sheikh Mohammed a first Classic success.

Her filles’ Triple Crown success - the 1000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger - was the first since Meld in 1955, and came despite the daughter of Kris not showing her best form.

Big-race jockey Steve Cauthen once described her as the best filly she had ever ridden, and Oh So Sharp passed away aged 19 in 2001 having stood at the Dalham Hall Stud following a bout of Laminitis. 




KRIBENSIS

Kribensis is something of an anomaly amongst Sheikh Mohammed’s horses, and the son of Henbit was unbeaten in his first three starts on the flat for Sir Michael Stoute.

However, he would go on to become a top-class hurdler in the wake of those wins, claiming the 1988 Triumph Hurdle with a defeat of Floyd prior to winning the Champion Hurdle two years later when beating Nomadic Way by three lengths.

A dashing grey horse, the Henbit gelding wouldn’t win again following that success, although injury saw him miss an entire season; his best subsequent finish came behind Valfinet at Wincanton in the Kingwell Hurdle, and no longer the force he was his final career start saw him finish down the field in the 1993 Champion Hurdle.

He became Sir Michael Stoute’s yard hack for a time, but the horse’s natural exuberance wasn’t suited to such a role and the job was soon abandoned.

A winner of 13 races throughout his career, Kribensis passed away in 2007 aged 23 following a battle with cancer.



OLD VIC

Trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Old Vic was a winner of six of his nine races which included victories in the 1989 Prix du Jockey Club and the Irish Derby in the same season. His win in the latter came despite the presence of a large abscess underneath his saddle which required foam padding around the affected area.

His final run came when beaten into second behind another of Sheikh Mohammed’s horses in Belmez when the pair contested the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. 

He helped establish his sire, Sadlers Wells, as a top stallion and he was retired to stand at stud following that Ascot run where he also established himself as a top sire of National Hunt horses, including two Grand National winners in Comply Or Die and Don’t Push It, as well as 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kicking King.

Old Vic spent his last days in Ireland at Sunnyhill Stud where following a bout of colic he passed away aged 25.



DIMINUENDO

An American-bred filly, the Diesis filly was another to have been trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, and having been amongst the best two-year old fillies in the 1987 season she proved her top-class credentials the following season by winning the Musidora at York prior to claiming victory in the Epsom Oaks with a defeat of Sudden Love.

She would go on to add both the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks - the former in a dead heat with another of Sheikh Mohammeds horses, Melodist - to her tally enroute to being crowned the top-rated European three-year old filly despite defeats in the St Leger at Doncaster and in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Having won six of her ten starts, she became a broodmare, but wasn’t noted for success with her progeny and she passed away in 2010 at the Darley Stud.



BARATHEA

Bred in Ireland, the Sadler’s Well horse won five of his sixteen races in a career for Luca Cumani which would see him win the Irish 2000 Guineas, the Queen Anne Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Mile in a successful 1994 season.

A winner of both starts a juvenile, his three-year old season didn’t quite live up to the hype despite his win in the Irish Classic, having come up against the top-class Zafonic in the Newmarket equivalent previously.

Tried over longer trips, he failed to stay the trip at Epsom and again at Sandown when contesting the Eclipse, and he was dropped back to one mile where he would signal a return to form with a solid fourth to Kingmambo in the Prix du Moulin. A runner-up finish in the QEII Stakes followed prior to a fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

However, it would be as a four year old that he would enjoy his biggest win, and having proved himself as a genuine Group One contender he would win the Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot before dropping in trip to run an excellent fourth in the July Cup. Returned to one mile thereafter, the son of Sadler’s Wells would endure a mixed bag of results, including when beaten behind surprise 66/1 King George winner Maroof, but he signed off his career with an impressive Breeders’ Cup Turf success.

A successful career as a stallion followed with the likes of Tobougg, Barshiba and Silk Blossom amongst his progeny; he was euthanized in 2009 following a bout of Laminitis.



INDIAN SKIMMER


An American-bred filly by Storm Bird, Indian Skimmer was another top class exponent to roll off the Sir Henry Cecil bandwagon, and given her breeding she was destined for big things.

The dashing grey horse’s haul of wins - 10 from 16 starts - saw her win the likes of the Musidora at York, and twice in France during her first season on the track with successes in the Prix Saint Alary, and the Prix de Diane where she lowered the colours of the mighty Miesque.

Arguably the best filly Sir Henry Cecil trained in his illustrious career, the following season would see Indian Skimmer tested against the colts, and she proved her mettle against the boys with wins in the Sun Chariot Stakes, Champion Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes prior to returning to France the following season to win the the Prix d’Ispahan after which she added the Gordon Richards Stakes to her haul, and running third to Nashwan in the 1989 Eclipse Stakes on her final career start.

However, like many of her stablemates through the year she wasn’t successful as a broodmare due to reproductive difficulties.



AJDAL


Another American-bred colt, Ajdal was all speed and the Northern Dancer colt contested eleven races for Sir Michael Stoute, winning seven including the Dewhurst as a juvenile, and progressing the following season to prove himself an outstanding sprinter with successes in the Craven Stakes, July Cup, the Nunthorpe - then the William Hill Sprint Championship - and the Haydock Sprint Cup which was known then as the Vernons Sprint Cup.

His final race came in the Prix de l’Abbaye where he failed to fire from his poor draw and on road-like ground to finish seventh, after which he was retired to stud.

Ajdal however died soon after his first crop of yearlings, which were largely disappointing save for Cezanne who would go on to win the Irish Champion Stakes. However, his female lineage fared better, and daughter Homage was the dam of Mark Of Esteem.

These are just a handful of the top-class horses which have sported the famour maroon and white silks to notable victories down through the years; there are sure to be omissions and differences of opinions, but one thing is certain: Sheikh Mohammed rarely had poor horses.


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Sheikh Mohammed's best horses - Eight of the best horses to have carried the famous maroon silks

Brian Healy looks back at some of the best horses to have carried Sheikh Mohammed's famous maroon and white colours, which made a return to the racetrack recently.

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