Masar’s Derby win a family affair

Beforehand, seemingly few professionals gave Masar much of a chance in the Derby. There was unanimity in the Racing Post’s four methods of selection (Spotlight, RP Ratings, Topspeed and Postdata) in tipping 2000 Guineas winner and favourite Saxon Warrior, while none of the nine daily newspaper tipsters listed in the Derby Day selection box found the winner either; their votes were split between Saxon Warrior (4), Young Rascal (3) and Hazapour (2).

Neither Masar, third in the 2000 Guineas, or for that matter Roaring Lion, were widely expected to turn the tables on Saxon Warrior from Newmarket. But there was a very different result over the half-mile longer trip at Epsom and, at least in hindsight, the clues were all there in Masar’s pedigree that he was a Derby winner in waiting.

Masar might have been the first Derby winner to carry the blue Godolphin silks to victory at Epsom, but Godolphin’s first Derby winner – trained by Saeed bin Suroor after a winter in the Dubai sun – was Lammtarra twenty-three years earlier. In the days before Godolphin had its own colours, Lammtarra carried the green and while silks of Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew Saeed Maktoum Al Maktoum (stable-companion Moonshell won the Oaks twenty-four hours in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed’s elder brother Maktoum Al Maktoum). As with Masar, there was more encouragement to be gained from Lammtarra’s pedigree regarding his chances at Epsom than what he had achieved on the track, though in his case that amounted to just one start when winning the listed Washington Singer Stakes at Newbury the previous August.

Lammtarra’s pedigree had Epsom written all over it. He was by Derby (indeed Triple Crown) winner Nijinsky out of Snow Bride who had been awarded the Oaks after finishing second past the post to the subsequently disqualified Aliysa. Snow Bride was by the Derby runner-up Blushing Groom, while Lammtarra’s grandam Awaasif, herself by Derby winner Snow Knight, had been beaten around three lengths when fourth in Time Charter’s Oaks.

Lammtarra retired to stud unbeaten after winning the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe after the Derby. He stood only one season at Sheikh Mohammed’s Dalham Hall before being exported to Japan, with his first book of mares headed by another Arc winner, Urban Sea, who had won at Longchamp two years before Lammtarra.

The result of this rare union between two Arc winners – a filly, as it turned out – was obviously going to be a very valuable commodity and, sent to the Deauville August Sales as a yearling, she broke the French yearling record when selling for 10 million francs (just less than a million guineas). Godolphin were the buyers, not surprisingly, and, named Melikah, she had four starts for Saeed bin Suroor, winning the listed Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket on her debut before finishing third in the Oaks, second in the Irish Oaks and fifth in the Prix Vermeille on her other starts.

Melikah has proven an excellent broodmare for Darley. Her latest winner, four-year-old colt Royal Line (by Dubawi), was successful for another member of Sheikh Mohammed’s family, his daughter Sheikha Al Jalila, when winning the Great Metropolitan Handicap, in what used to be Sheikh Mohammed’s maroon and white colours, at Epsom in April. Melikah’s other winners include Masterstroke (by Monsun) who finished third in the Arc after winning the Grand Prix de Deauville, and Moonlight Magic (by Cape Cross), who ran in the 2016 Derby (last of sixteen to Harzand) after winning the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

The filly Villarrica (by Selkirk) was one of Melikah’s less talented foals, though she did win a maiden at Warwick and a handicap at Salisbury over middle distances and produced a couple of smart winners of her own for Godolphin. One was Vancouverite (by Dansili) whose biggest win came in the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville, and the other was Masar’s dam Khawlah, a daughter of Cape Cross. She completed a unique Oaks/Derby double – in Dubai – though a setback prevented her from taking her chance in the Oaks at Epsom.

Meanwhile, Urban Sea’s broodmare record was getting better and better. Melikah was only her foal; a year later she produced Galileo, who went on to be a belated first Derby winner for his sire Sadler’s Wells. Galileo’s sister All Too Beautiful was second in the 2004 Oaks*, while his Green Desert half-sister Cherry Hinton finished fifth in the same race three years later. It was maybe not surprising that she lacked the necessary stamina for a mile and a half, but there were no such problems with her close relative Sea The Stars, by Green Desert’s son Cape Cross, who became Urban Sea’s second Derby winner in 2009, having won the 2000 Guineas beforehand.

Cape Cross sired a second Derby winner when Golden Horn was successful at Epsom in 2015, while Masar became the second Derby winner out of a daughter of Cape Cross after 2014 winner Australia whose dam Ouija Board had beaten All Too Beautiful in that 2004 Oaks**.

Australia was Galileo’s third Derby winner, and the second by the sire for Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore after Ruler of The World the year before, but Galileo had broken his duck at Epsom in 2008 with New Approach, trained by Jim Bolger. New Approach raced in Mrs Bolger’s colours at two, even after Darley had purchased a half-share in him mid-season, but when Sheikh Mohammed bought him outright at the end of his unbeaten two-year-old campaign, he raced at three in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed’s wife Princess Haya, who, along with her daughter Sheikha Al Jalila, was present at Epsom to see New Approach’s son Masar win the Derby.

*All Too Beautiful’s daughter Wonder of Wonders also finished second in the Oaks (2011), while her granddaughter Alluringly was third in 2017

**Australia thus became the second Derby winner after Lammtarra to be the result of a mating between Derby and Oaks winners.