11/14/2011 3:57PM

Godolphin's U.S. runners to no longer be trained by Suroor, Mettee


Godolphin Racing, the banner under which Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai races his elite runners, is undergoing a change in its United States operation, with the horses previously trained by Saeed bin Suroor and overseen in this country by Rick Mettee being absorbed by other trainers, Godolphin’s Simon Crisford confirmed in an e-mail on Monday.

Mettee said that he will be returning to California, where he was previously based. He has worked for Godolphin for seven years.

“Godolphin has taken great care of me the past seven years,” Mettee said by telephone. “Saeed is not going to have a string in the United States starting next year. We only had eight to 10 horses this year.”

Mettee said his last runner for Godolphin will be Sangaree, who is scheduled to compete in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 26.

The Godolphin colors will still fly here, though. Mettee said that trainers such as Tom Albertrani, Eoin Harty, and Kiaran McLaughlin – who train for Sheikh Mohammed’s other entity, Darley – will still have horses who race under the Godolphin banner. For instance, It’s Tricky, a 3-year-old filly who was second in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, started as a Darley runner before being upgraded to Godolphin, though she remained throughout with McLaughlin.

“The Godolphin runners will stay with their Darley trainers,” Mettee said.

Mettee, a native of Maryland, first rose to prominence in California as a top assistant to John Gosden in the 1980s, before Gosden returned to his native England.

“I still have a home in Monrovia,” Mettee said of a town close to Santa Anita. “I don’t know what my future will be. I don’t have anything specific planned right now.”

Godolphin’s worldwide operation has been evolving in the past two years. Suroor was once Godolphin’s lone primary trainer in the United Kingdom and Dubai, and he had horses in the U.S. with Mettee, but Suroor now shares the top Godolphin horses with Mahmood al Zarooni, whose star is clearly on the rise within the organization.

In addition, the opening of Meydan racecourse in Dubai likely has changed Godolphin’s need for United States-based dirt runners, since Meydan has a synthetic Tapeta surface.