Michael Banahan Joins the TDN Writers' Room Podcast

Michael Banahan | Keeneland photo

The mighty Godolphin stable leads all Breeders' Cup owners with 16 wins, a testament to both the quality of the horses owned by Godolphin and its commitment to the Breeders' Cup. Godolphin won four Breeders' Cup races last year and is sending a strong contingent of U.S. and foreign-based horses to Santa Anita for this year's event. To find out more about the Godolphin runners for this year's Breeders' Cup and why the event is so important to the stable, the TDN Writers' Room podcast presented by Keeneland called on Godolphin Director of Bloodstock Michael Banahan to give us answers to our questions. Banahan was this week's Green Group Guest of the Week.

“We embrace the Breeders' Cup because it is championship racing,” Banahan said. “That's what we're trying to do. It's the biggest race day at the end of the year for us. And if we can be fortunate enough to get horses to compete at the Breeders' Cup, we know we're competing with the very best horses not only in America, but across the world. That's where we want to compete at, at the very top level. You see only the very best horses at the Breeders' Cup and we know by the Eclipse Award voting that people put a lot of emphasis on those races at the end of the year.”

While Banahan deals primarily with Godolphin's U.S.-based runners, he is well aware of the success trainer Charlie Appleby, Godolphin's head trainer in Europe, has had in North America. Since 2021 in North America, he's had 56 starters, 24 winners, 23 stakes winners and 15 Grade I wins. His winning percentage during that period of time is 43%. For his career, he's had nine Breeders' Cup winners. How does he do it?

“Charlie is an excellent trainer and a very good horseman,” Banahan said. “He had been with Godolphin for a long time before he took the mantle as the head trainer and would have traveled all around the world and would have seen firsthand the type of horse you need to bring to different destinations, whether it's America, Australia, continental Europe, or wherever it might be, or Dubai itself. He understands that very well, understands what his horses like and which ones will perform well in a race in America where there might be a lot of pace and the race is run over a flat track. They're good horses as well. But sometimes they look like they're elevated a little bit when they get to America in the pattern of a race and the style of a race.  Obviously, he's got plenty of them, but he's identified the right horses and you don't really see him just throwing horses in a race and hoping that, you know, some of it'll stick a little bit.”

Godolphin owns Cody's Wish (Curlin), last year's GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner. He was named for Cody Dorman, who was born with a rare genetic disorder called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. Banahan said the Dorman family is hoping to be at Santa Anita to see if Cody's Wish can repeat in the Dirt Mile.

“When he ran in the Whitney in Saratoga, when the family was going to the paddock people were giving them a round of applause and cheering them when they went by,” Banahan said. “I think it's even goes further than racing itself. It's hit people outside the industry, just the general public. People who don't have any interest in racing or just a marginal interest have really caught on to this great story. Hopefully, they'll all make it out there and be there to cheer Cody's Wish on in what will be his last race.”

Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by 1/ST Racing, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, WinStar Farm, Lane's End, the KTOB, XBTV and West Point Thoroughbreds, the team of Zoe Cadman, Randy Moss and Bill Finley discussed the story of trainer John Pimental, the 68-year-old trainer who had won just one race this year but is facing a possible suspension of up to three years because a horse he trained tested positive for methamphetamine and because investigators from the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU) found a container of Levothyroxine on his truck. Finley called for HIWU to begin to employ common sense when it comes to its decisions and, especially in this case, not upend the life and career of a trainer who quite clearly was not trying to dope his horses with performance-enhancing drugs.

Live from Santa Anita, Cadman gave her report card on some of the workouts she had seen during the week from Breeders' Cup horses. She was so impressed with a seven-furlong workout by Arabian Knight (Uncle Mo) that went in 1:24, she declared: “They're all running for second money behind Arabian Knight in the Classic.”

It's too late for 'TDN Rising Star' Nysos (Nyquist) to make the Breeders' Cup, but his 10 1/2-length win in a maiden race at Santa Anita on Saturday was a worthy topic of discussion. And why did trainer Bob Baffert choose to ride Kyle Frey on the colt? Cadman has the answer, and it might surprise you.

Click here to watch the podcast as a video or here to listen to the audio file.

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