Lyre wins the 2019 Ladbrokes Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield. Photo: Racing Photos

Godolphin paint the Festival of Racing blue

The early autumn in Melbourne is all about speed and just a few months after dominating the elite spring staying races, the Godolphin stable’s famous royal blue colours were at it again, finishing prominently in all of the February sprint features.

Possibly the highlight of month for the stable of Sheikh Mohammed was a third Blue Diamond Stakes victory with Lyre – the first such juvenile success in the blue colours – among some agonisingly close results in other feature races.

In a snapshot of group 1 racing in February, the Godolphin stable figured in the finish of each feature:

  • Orr Stakes (February 9): 2nd Kementari
  • Lightning Stakes (February 16): 2nd Osborne Bulls
  • Blue Diamond Stakes (February 23): 1st Lyre
  • Futurity Stakes (February 23): 1st Alizee
  • Oakleigh Plate (February 23): 2nd Encryption

Lyre’s Blue Diamond win will go down in history as although Pride Of Dubai (2015) and Sepoy (2011) had won Victoria’s premier two-year-old event for Sheikh Mohammed, both were under the Darley banner when Peter Snowden was head trainer.

Godolphin has the one stable in Australia – run by James Cummings – but, due to their long-running association, the stable has continued to supply the Freedman family (this time, Anthony Freedman) with a handful of yearlings most seasons.

This season, five yearlings arrived at Freedman’s stables at Pinecliff. Just one has raced and it was this filly Lyre that managed to land Victoria’s premier juvenile race after a well-timed sprint to the line. Just for good measure, the Cummings-trained Athiri ran fourth, just a length behind the winner.

Lyre had come through a maiden win at Sale to take the fillies Prelude at $26 two weeks out from the Blue Diamond. Again, in the $1.5 million race, Lyre settled back near the tail of the field but she showed an incredible burst of speed from the top of the straight to score comfortably.

Godolphin’s first victory in the Melbourne Cup last spring with Cross Counter came just two and a half weeks after the global outfit took the Caulfield Cup with Best Solution. In between, Godolphin’s game Benbatl beat all but Winx in the Cox Plate.

Notably, away from the group 1s, the most impressive horse so far this autumn in Melbourne is Godolphin’s import Avilius.

Avilius showed great versatility to win over the 1600-metres of the Carlyon Cup at Caulfield first-up before putting his stamp on the group 2 Peter Young Stakes over 1800 metres on the same track when a comfortable winner.

The Futurity Stakes victory of Alizee was, probably, away from Winx’s return in the Apollo Stakes in Sydney, the most impressive weight-for-age victory for the month as nothing went right for the mare, but she still proved too strong despite a wide run.

The Lightning Stakes win of In Her Time was warmly received as she has been one of the more consistent sprinters for the past few seasons. It was her second win at group 1 level (Galaxy last year) but she has also had five minor placings at the top level.

She had to do it the hard way also. The pre-race plan was to tuck in behind the flying two-year-old Jedastar and then produce the mare inside the last 200 metres. But Jedastar didn’t read the script and she blew the start meaning In Her Time had to shoulder the early work up front.

The mare finally shrugged off those around her, only for Osborne Bulls so emerge from the pack, but In Her Time had enough in hand to win narrowly.

The Orr Stakes is the first group 1 of 2019 in Australia and it is a race that often sets a tempo for the group 1s to follow but few could have predicted the all-the-way win of last spring’s Kilmore Cup winner Manuel.

The $21 shot was well-served by the way the track was racing as on-pacers were surely best suited and jockey Luke Currie rated the five-year-old perfectly as he skipped clear and was able to hold off group 1 winners Land Of Plenty and Kementari.

Autumn racing is not all about the top-end of racing where millions of dollars are up for grabs on metropolitan tracks.

For the likes of Stawell trainer Dane Smith, the $70,000 Colac Cup win on February 10 of Golden Authority proved a season highlight.

The New Zealand-bred stayer had only come to Smith’s stables from those of Matt Cumani at Ballarat over Christmas but since then, in four runs, he’s won the Colac Cup, was third in the Camperdown Cup, fourth in the Wangaratta Cup as well as being runner-up at Kyneton in handicap.

Smith has been training since 2013 and his 10 winners already this season, sees him poised for a best-ever season as he’s just one winner shy of his 2016/17 record of 11 wins.

There are still plenty of racemeetings across the Victoria during the Festival of Racing, explore what's on offer here.