With changes made at Godolphin for 2016, Sheikh Mohammed’s operation got off to a flying start by winning the first major handicap of the Flat season, the Betway Lincoln at Doncaster, through Secret Brief.
Having been dogged by scandal and below-par results for several seasons, John Ferguson has been appointed as chief executive and racing manager for the team, ending his spell as a trainer of National Hunt horses.
World Cup night in Dubai passed without a winner for either Saeed bin Suroor or Charlie Appleby, but the latter has softened that blow slightly by providing the best possible start to the campaign in tandem with William Buick.
The race may also be remembered for a rare reverse for Ryan Moore in a tight finish on Bravo Zolo, with Secret Brief (12-1) claiming that scalp close home to win by a neck.
Ferguson said: “It’s a lovely start for everybody in the team. This is a horse that has been trained in Dubai in the winter, so a perfect preparation from the sunshine of Dubai to heavy ground in Doncaster.
“He’s handled it really well and I was just impressed the way he travelled in the race.
“What we want is our horses to reach their potential, which they haven’t been doing, and this is a great start.
“We’ll have to see what the handicapper does on Tuesday before we make a plan.”
The day got even better for Godolphin as the royal blue silks were carried to an easy victory in the Betway Doncaster Mile by Roger Varian’s Belardo (8-13 favourite) under James Doyle.
Victorious in the Dewhurst as a juvenile, he went winless last season but looks like he could have a profitable campaign this year.
Varian said: “It looked straightforward but I was a little worried James could get boxed in if it turned into a sprint.
“I didn’t really let him down over the winter given how well he ran in the QEII (runner-up to Solow) and we’ve aimed at this for a long time.
“He’ll go for the Sandown Mile next and he’s in the Lockinge (Newbury).”
Mick Channon’s Mobsta (8-1) was a relatively surprising winner of the Betway Cammidge Trophy for Silvestre de Sousa.
* Desert Ruler is a sporting option in the Racing UK Anywhere Available Now Handicap at Pontefract’s first meeting of the season on Tuesday.
Trained by Jedd O’Keeffe, whose horses ran well at Doncaster at the weekend, he still looks well treated on a mark of 85 after two wins last season.
Having shown promise when sent off at 50-1 on his debut at Ripon last June he stepped up on that to open his account at Ayr, proving he could handle cut in the ground in the process.
It was at York when he looked above average, though, running on strongly at the finish of a decent nursery.
That was over seven furlongs, so he lacks nothing in the stamina department if this becomes a bit of a test.
Starting Desert Ruler back over six furlongs seems logical and while O’Keeffe also runs top weight Candelisa, that one has an inflated rating after going close in a sales race.
Ludlow: 2.15 Haut Bages, 2.50 Houston Dynimo, 3.25 Bagging Turf, 4.00 Helium, 4.35 Rock On Rocky, 5.05 Hazy Tom, 5.40 Instant Karma.
Newton Abbot: 1.50 Imperial Presence, 2.25 Rainy City, 3.00 Minellahalfcentury, 3.35 Un Prophete, 4.10 Discay, 4.45 Tales Of Milan, 5.15 Tony Star.
Pontefract: 2.00 Lopes Dancer, 2.35 Folly Bergere, 3.10 DESERT RULER (NAP), 3.45 Tuscan Gold, 4.20 Lord Ben Stack, 4.55 Shahaama, 5.25 Sugar Lump, 5.55 Farham.
Double: Desert Ruler and Lord Ben Stack.