IT was a historic moment at Epsom last month when Masar became the first horse to carry the Godolphin blue to victory in the world’s most iconic and important Flat race – the Derby.
Aboard him that day was William Buick, who went on to enjoy a memorable Royal Ascot with three wins, including the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes on Godolphin’s Blue Point.
This weekend Buick is back on hot favourite Masar as he takes on Roaring Lion, Saxon Warrior, Happily and co in what is sure to be a fantastic Coral-Eclipse. We spoke to him about his chances.
Masar is favourite for the Coral-Eclipse on Saturday. How are things with him?
He appears to be in very good shape. Charlie [Appleby, trainer] and everyone involved with him at Moulton Paddocks seem really happy with the horse. He’s going into the race as well as he can be.
Masar won the Derby on his last outing. What was that like?
It was the biggest success we could have. The Derby is the biggest race in the world, I certainly regard it as that, and it’s the most important race too. Everything about it makes it important with the challenge it presents to horse, trainer and rider. He’s a special horse and it was just the most fantastic day. To be the jockey who delivered Sheikh Mohammed his first Derby win in the Godolphin colours gives it that extra special edge to it.
The team ethos at Godolphin is something that is always put forward. How important is that in the success of the operation?
It’s very important to have a strong team ethos. At the head of Godolphin is Sheikh Mohammed and it’s his motto and outlook that brings that team ethic into Godolphin. Sheikh Mohammed is a great leader and it’s his vision that drives Godolphin forward.
Do you think Masar is the horse to beat in the Coral-Eclipse?
It’s a new assignment ahead and this is another test for him but we’re very hopeful. He stayed very well in the Derby, but I thought before the race he might have too much pace for it. As a result, coming back in trip won’t cause him any problems as he travels very well and he has a great gear change. He’s straightforward and quite simply a very good horse – there’s not that much more to say!
You won the Coral-Eclipse two years ago on Hawkbill. Is he a danger to you this year?
He’s a former winner of this race and has won a Sheema Classic as well. It was a good performance when he was third in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last time and he’s a proper horse. He’s battle-hardened, experienced and tough. He loves the trip and he loves the track as well. He’s a danger, there’s no question about that, and if he gets his own way then he is more than capable of winning this race.
Sound And Silence goes for you in the Coral Charge. How do you rate his prospects?
He ran okay last time and is meeting a lot of the same opposition again. I think we’ll ride him a little differently and take our time on him more. It’s not easy to get there late on the sprint course at Sandown, but if he comes back near his form from last year he’ll be very competitive.
Next weekend you will be riding Blue Point in the July Cup. What did you make of his performance at Ascot and what about his chances next week?
He put in a serious performance in the King’s Stand and one we’ve been looking for from him. He’s always shown us a lot of ability and things seemed to come together for him at Royal Ascot. While he was very effective at five furlongs, I do believe six furlongs will be his trip so the July Cup is an obvious target. He’ll meet different opposition but he seems to come out of the race well and looks, and feels, like a sprinter out of the very top drawer.
Last weekend you partnered Old Persian in the Irish Derby. Do you agree with his trainer that he looks a St Leger type?
The Irish Derby was a muddling race and it wasn’t run to suit him at all. He still ran well and is a honest, game horse and stamina is his forte. The St Leger looks the obvious choice for him.
La Pelosa is a filly who impressed many at Royal Ascot. What do you think she is capable of this season?
She’s a good filly. She’s a well-built, athletic filly who is strong and has a good mind on her. She stayed the trip well in the Albany Stakes and she’s a talented filly. I don’t see any reason why she won’t get better with time and continue to make an impact in good races this year.
And, finally, you rode Aljazzi to win at Royal Ascot. Do you think she will be able to step up to Group 1 level on her next start?
It was a brilliant performance at Royal Ascot and there has been a Group 1 winner come out of the race since then as well. The race worked out well for her that day and I think fast ground and a straight track bring out the best in her. Deauville seems a natural step for her.