09/20/2009 11:00PM

Much to envy at Godolphin


NEW YORK - You don't need the numbers to know that Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing and trainer Saeed bin Suroor have been on quite a roll lately, which they added to Friday, when their champion Midshipman made a successful return to the races in an allowance event at Belmont Park, and Saturday, when Regal Ransom recorded an easy front-running victory in the Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs. But when you do look at the numbers, you'll be struck at just how awesome their run really is.

Using opening day at Saratoga on July 29 - when Godolphin's Pyro finished second in the James Marvin Stakes in his first start since the Breeders' Cup - as a starting point, let's see exactly what this barn has accomplished.

From July 29 through Saturday, bin Suroor sent out 23 Godolphin starters, and 11 of them were official winners. Even more impressive than the 48 percent strike rate is the type of races the outfit has been winning. Godolphin won the Grade 1 Go for Wand with Seventh Street, the De La Rose Stakes with Cocoa Beach, the Grade 1 Test Stakes with Flashing, the Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes with Sarah Louise (the last horse to beat Rachel Alexandra), the Grade 1 Ballerina with Music Note, the Grade 1 Forego with Pyro (that's four Grade 1's, folks), and the aforementioned Grade 2 Super Derby.

Godolphin also won the allowance with Midshipman, another allowance event with the stakes horse Gayego, and two allowance races with the stakes-bound Girolamo.

Moreover, Godolphin was disqualified from another Grade 1 victory when the comebacking Vineyard Haven was rightly taken down from first in the King's Bishop Stakes. Godolphin lost another win in strange fashion with Fateh Field. Fateh Field won an allowance race at Belmont last Thursday but had that win taken away by the stewards two days later, when it was discovered that, to the apparent surprise of the parties involved, he was on the veterinarian's list at Presque Isle Downs, a list he was just two days short of clearing.

And finally, Godolphin was expected to take home another Grade 1 prize in the Ruffian Handicap with Seventh Street, who was a prohibitive favorite at 3-10 but wound up finishing second. So, as amazing as Godolphin's numbers are since the start of Saratoga, they could have been even better.

At the moment, Godolphin has envious depth among its 3-year-old colts. Most people would be thrilled to have just a Vineyard Haven, or a Girolamo, or a Midshipman, or a Regal Ransom in their barns, but Godolphin has all four.

Even though he was disqualified in the King's Bishop, Vineyard Haven received some well-deserved credit for his performance, disputing a fast pace and grimly fighting back to get to the wire first in what was, given his non-effort in his one start in Dubai last February, really his first competitive race of the year. And Girolamo, who was thrown to the wolves last year after a flashy debut win, was so dominant and fast winning his first two return starts that he doesn't have to take a back seat to anyone in this quartet.

There also was a lot to like about Midshipman on Friday. In his first start since his championship-clinching win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last October, and first start on dirt, Midshipman showed surprising early speed to keep the capable Just Ben occupied on the lead. Yet he drew off late under a pull to score decisively. The way Midshipman drifted out in the stretch is not something you want to see, but if there isn't a physical cause for it, then this issue is overshadowed by the fact that this colt will only be more effective with more distance than the 6o1/2 furlongs he got in his comeback.

As for Regal Ransom, in truth, he had an easy trip Saturday in the Super Derby, controlling a deliberate and uncontested pace. But Regal Ransom would have won by plenty more than the final margin of 1 1/4 lengths had his rider, Richie Migliore, not taken him well in hand late, just as Migliore did with Midshipman. And easy trip or not, Regal Ransom showed something to dominate a nine-furlong race in his first start in 4 1/2 months.

* Quick notes: It's easier to buy into D' Funnybone now in the wake of his perfect-trip (but impressive) win in Saturday's Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont, although I wonder if he might not eventually prove to be a one-turn miler instead of a true distance colt. And although he was beaten decisively in the Futurity, runner-up Discreetly Mine will learn a lot from the eventful trip. I expect him to close the gap on D' Funnybone down the road.

* While on the subject of Belmont on Saturday, I still don't know how Rutherienne won that photo in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel.

* Ventura deserves a ton of credit for firing the way she did in her first start in 5 1/2 months to win Sunday's Woodbine Mile over males. And by finishing second, Ferneley suggested his Del Mar Mile win was more than just a one-shot deal. But I think Bribon, who was narrowly favored over Ventura and who wound up fifth, was much too close to the early pace.

* I understand Forever Together lost by only a nose to Princess Haya in Sunday's Canadian Stakes, also at Woodbine, while conceding that opponent 11 meaningful pounds. But I'm still shocked Forever Together lost a race she had in her back pocket in deep stretch, and I'm wondering if she's quite the same mare she was when she was champion last year.