Godolphin Looking Ahead to Summer Following Another 'Pretty' Big Weekend

Cody's Wish | Sarah Andrew


It was a banner weekend for Godolphin homebreds during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Cody's Wish (Curlin) added another chapter to racing's feel-good story with a powerful, come-from-behind victory in the stallion-making GI Hill 'N' Dale Metropolitan H.

The GI Kentucky Oaks winner and 'TDN Rising Star' Pretty Mischievous (Into Mischief) validated her upset neck victory on the first Friday in May with a heart-stopping victory in the GI Acorn S.

The up-and-coming Loved (Medaglia d'Oro)–a 4-year-old half-sister to MGISW and young Darley stallion Maxfield (Street Sense)–made it three straight runaway wins with a 12-length victory in an optional claimer in the Ellis slop on Sunday.

The 'Boys in Blue' also won last Friday's GII Belmont Gold Cup with Siskany (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and finished third with both 425,000gns TATOCT buy Ottoman Fleet (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) (the lone auction purchase of the group) in Saturday's GI Manhattan S. and 'TDN Rising Star' Strobe (Into Mischief) in the GII True North S., respectively.

TDN's Senior Racing Editor Steve Sherack caught up with Godolphin USA Director of Bloodstock Michael Banahan earlier this week to discuss some of the highlights from last weekend as well as domestic summer plans for Sheikh Mohammed's high-powered global operation. Banahan also provided an update on 'TDN Rising Star' First Mission (Street Sense), who was a late scratch from last month's GI Preakness S.

Q: Cody's Wish seems like a good place to start. He made it six straight wins while matching his previous career high Beyer Speed Figure of 112 in the Met Mile. Bill Mott said a title defense in the seven-furlong GI Forego S. (at Saratoga Aug. 26) could be in the cards for Cody's Wish later this summer, but also left the door open for potentially stretching him out to 1 1/8 miles for the GI Whitney S. (at Saratoga Aug. 5). Has there been much dialogue yet regarding his summer campaign?

MB: It's certainly a good discussion point. It's just unfortunate that there's not really any race at his distance that suits at the moment. And it's a long time from the first week in June until the last weekend in August. So, we'll have to decide what's the best route for him. He's gone over a mile a couple of times unsuccessfully (finished third going 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga second out in 2021 and finished a close second in the GIII Challenger S. at Tampa last March), but there's probably reasons for that. We feel like he's a better racehorse now than he was 12 months ago. He's more professional and Junior Alvarado has gotten to know him and rides him very well.

We also have (2022 GI Clark S. winner and this year's GI Santa Anita H. runner-up and GII Oaklawn H. winner) Proxy (Tapit) that's gonna run in the (GI) Stephen Foster (S. at Ellis Park July 1), hopefully. Those races that are 1 1/8-miles plus suit him very well. We'll probably wait until after he runs in the Stephen Foster, then see where the cards lay.

But the Whitney or the Forego are the two obvious races for Cody's Wish. We'll just wait and see. It's a wonderful position to be in.

We saw what he did last weekend in the Met Mile and it was another step up for him. He just seems to be getting to a different level. It's hard to tell if they want to stay any further until you actually try them. They can gallop out well, but in all honestly, when you get to the winner line, that's the end of the race. It doesn't really count what you do afterwards.

Q: It's always great to see the Kentucky Oaks winner back up their form in the Acorn on Belmont Stakes weekend. Will Pretty Mischievous follow up in the GI Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on July 22?

MB: We might go in a little bit of a different direction with her. She has a lot of pace as we've seen in the Oaks and in the Acorn. She travels extremely well. We are very tempted to back her up a little bit and go in the (GI) Test (S. going seven furlongs at Saratoga Aug. 5) instead. We think that's a race that she has enough pace for and it might suit her even better. We'll have a good strong look at that. Nothing written in stone. We also have the Oaks favorite Wet Paint (Blame) drawn in this weekend in the Monomoy Girl S. at Ellis Park. We feel that the Coaching Club Oaks–depending how she gets on this weekend–might come into play for her.

Q: What's the excitement level like having a Kentucky Oaks winner and another sophomore filly of such a high caliber–and both homebreds–carry the Godolphin blue?

MB: We've always liked Pretty Mischievous. We never felt that she ever let us down, but she probably is only getting the respect that she deserves now. And maybe that's a little bit to do with her racing style where she sort of waits on horses a little bit and ends up being in tight finishes. We've always been very high on her and going into the Kentucky Oaks–I said it at the time–that I couldn't really separate the two fillies. And I still think that they're very equal talent wise.

I don't think we saw the best of Wet Paint that day (in the Oaks). Flavien Prat came back and said that she didn't really take to the Churchill surface as well as she did to Oaklawn. I might be a little bit biased, but the record is out there for everyone else to see that we maybe have the two best 3-year-old fillies in the country. We're very excited to see what the balance of the year will hold for them. We'll try to keep them separated from each other for the near future.

Q: She's missed a lot of time, but Maxfield's half-sister Loved continues to make up for it. She was super impressive once again winning over the weekend at Ellis Park, her third straight victory since sitting on the shelf for more than a year. The patient approach by Brendan Walsh certainly looks like it's all paying off now. Is there a stakes race with her name on it next out?

MB: We've been waiting on her a long time. Brendan had to be very patient with her. We were hoping to get her running down in Florida in the winter time and different things conspired where we didn't get a start in her. She's developed mentally and physically since. She was one filly that we were very much looking forward to getting back to the racetrack and seeing what she could do and she hasn't let us down. She's taking those nice building-block races and getting a little bit more experience every time. She looks like she's very talented. We'll take it slowly, but we're probably looking at the GIII Molly Pitcher on Haskell day (July 22) at Monmouth for her. She deserves to get into a graded race now and see where we are. If she stays healthy and well, we'll have some nice days down the road with her.

Q: First Mission's GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. form was further flattered over the weekend when both Arabian Lion (Justify) (GI Woody Stephens S.) and Disarm (Gun Runner) (GIII Matt Winn S.) won impressively. Obviously a crushing blow to have to scratch him out of the Preakness last month. What's the latest on him?

MB: We're just giving him a little bit of time off. We'll regroup next month and see where we stand. Get him reevaluated and try and get him back on track again. No need to rehash our Preakness disappointment. But it was a pretty crushing one. We thought we had maybe the best horse in the race. But, anyway, we saw what Arabian Lion did in the Woody Stephens and we felt like we beat him pretty readily in the Lexington.

Look, First Mission is a very talented horse. We just look forward now rather than backwards and hopefully in the fall and next year we're gonna have an exceptionally nice horse for some big days down the road.

Q: What was the diagnosis? Was it an issue with his left hind leg that led to the time off?

MB: Not really, it was a little bit of bone bruising. Nothing major, relatively insignificant. We'll just give him that little bit of time (60 days off). He seems like he's doing OK and enjoying his time off. We're looking forward to getting him back going again.

Q: Glancing over her worktab, it looks like Matareya (Pioneerof the Nile) has bounced out of her win in the GI Derby City Distaff S. on Kentucky Derby day in good form. What kind of targets does she have lined up for the summer and fall?

MB: It's a funny program. We had the Distaff set up nicely in the spring and then there's not any races at the Grade I level–the Breeders' Cup champion (Goodnight Olive) is having a run this weekend in a Grade II in New York (in the GII Bed O' Roses S.).

Matareya, we wanted to keep her at home. We're gonna run her in the (GIII) Chicago (S. at Ellis Park June 24). She obviously likes Churchill Downs and we were expecting to be running at Churchill Downs. But she'll take a day trip down to Ellis and hopefully lead us to the (GI) Ballerina (H. at Saratoga Aug. 26). She's doing well. We're very happy with her. She improved from her first race of the year at Oaklawn (second in Matron S.), which we were hoping would happen. There's some really nice sprinting fillies out there and she's at the top end of the table with them. We were delighted with her win at Churchill. She's tactically very astute and has that speed to put herself in a good position to win those type of races. Looking forward to a big second half of the year with her.

Q: Final question. Three Grade I victories over Kentucky Derby weekend, led by a win in the Kentucky Oaks, and another two during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, including the prestigious Met Mile. What does this level of success on racing's biggest stages–all with homebreds–mean for the operation?

MB: It's what we get out of bed every morning for. It's all the hard work over the previous years that lead up to that to try and develop these horses and get a broodmare band established that we feel like we have an opportunity to do so. It takes plenty of luck to get there as well. We had a massive Derby weekend and to back it up with Pretty Mischievous winning the Acorn and Cody's Wish winning the Met Mile–we were especially delighted to be able to provide the assist for Bill Mott to get his first Met Mile win.

They're the weekends you look forward to all year long and want to be winning on. We realize that we've been fortunate and on a great run here lately. It means everything to all of our people that work on the farms in Kentucky and also to Godolphin globally as well. We had people over from Europe and for them to see what we're achieving over here in America first hand was great. And back in Dubai for Godolphin's founder Sheikh Mohammed, who takes a great interest in how we're doing in America as well. I think he got a big kick out of seeing those horses perform at that level. We all have a great pep in our step on Monday morning after those big weekends.

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