Bin Suroor hopes for good news from Sajjhaa
After a 'dark day' for Godolphin in England, trainer looks for positive headlines in QE II Cup
In a week when one trainer for the operation attracted headlines for the wrong reasons off the track, Godolphin's senior handler Saeed bin Suroor wants to put the focus back on a brilliant start to the year on the track for the boys in blue.
Mahmoud Al-Zarooni faces the possible loss of his trainer's licence after anabolic steroids turned up in samples from 11 of the horses at his Newmarket stables in England, in what was described by Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford as "a dark day" for the operation.
But Dubai-based Bin Suroor was accentuating positives of a different kind as he reflected yesterday on his Dubai World Cup carnival results. "It has been a fantastic start in Dubai - three Group Ones, 22 winners in just a short time," Bin Suroor said at Sha Tin as he put the finishing touches on Audemars Piguet QE II Cup candidate Sajjhaa, who has provided four of the wins and a huge proportion of the pleasant surprises.
Sajjhaa had shown talent when trained as a young horse by Michael Jarvis in England. Her progress appeared to stall when she got to Group company, but that coincided with a fetlock injury that curtailed her racing to just seven starts in her four- and five-year-old seasons and only one win.
Normally, that might have said retirement time, but Bin Suroor was keen to push on. "Towards the end of last year, she was getting stronger physically and improving and that's why we kept her in training," he said. "Then, in Dubai, she was showing in the way she worked that she was better and more confident in herself."
Her opening Group Two win in the Cape Verdi over a mile against her own sex came as no surprise, but then she took another Group Two before finishing the carnival with Group One wins over 1,800m in the Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday and the Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night.
"For the first run, I felt she would win but what happened after, that was a great result," Bin Suroor said. "She is a very tough filly. And the last race was the one which gave us the confidence to bring her here."
It has been 17 years since Godolphin's first QE II Cup win with Overbury, years before the race carried an international Group One tag. But Godolphin has not been a part of the QE II Cup since Grandera finished fifth as favourite in 2002, and that could be a telling statistic in Sajjhaa's favour. "We know the conditions here, we know the ground will suit her and I'm not worried about the extra 200m in distance," the trainer said. "She races handy. It depends how fast they go but she needs to be somewhere there near the lead."
And he hasn't ruled out a further continuation of Sajjhaa's career this year. "It has taken until now for her to mature and reach her peak, so it would be a shame to stop if she has more to give but we will see how she runs," Bin Suroor said. "There are always more good races coming up somewhere and there are possible races for her in Europe or the US if she does well here."