The Melbourne Cup. That's the thing Dubai's ruler can't buy. Not that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum hasn't tried. Oh boy, has he been trying and trying and trying.
Sheikh Mohammed loves his horses. In 1992, he set up a stable in Dubai called Godolphin, so named for the Godolphin Arabian, an 18th century stallion who is regarded as one of the granddaddies of all modern thoroughbreds.
By 1994 the stable had a branch in the UK. Today, there are Godolphin stables in the UAE, UK and Australia, as well as Godolphin horses in training with no fewer than 20 trainers in several other countries.
They're everywhere. And they win everything. Name a big international race and Godolphin has won it. Except one. The Melbourne Cup. And it hurts. Sheikh Mohammed doesn't need the $3.6 million first prize money, but he'd love the trophy on the mantlepiece.
But can they do it in 2016? Well, Godolphin has by far its best chance yet this year. Firstly it has five of the 24 runners, which is more than ever before. Those runners are:
6. Hartnell, the race favourite trained in Sydney by John O'Shea.
16. Beautiful Romance, trained in Dubai by Saeed bin Suroor.
20. Oceanographer, the impressive Lexus Stakes winner trained by Charlie Appleby in the UK.
21. Secret Number, also trained in Dubai by Saeed bin Suroor.
23. Qewy, the 2016 Geelong Cup winner who is another Appleby horse.
Not a bad batch. But Godolphin has brought good horses to Flemington before. Indeed, the famous blue Godolphin colours have finished runner-up three times in previous Melbourne Cups.
The first time was in 1999, when Central Park finished second to Bart Cummings' Rogan Josh. Then in 2001, Give The Slip looked home and hosed before Kiwi mare Ethereal ran her down, thus making Sheila Laxon the first female Melbourne Cup-winning trainer. So close. Here's the finish.
Then in 2009, Australian horse Shocking beat Godolphin's Crime Scene, which created headline-writers's heaven. But for Godolphin, it was hell. Crime Scene was an expensive European horse. Shocking cost just $45,000 at an Australian sale, which is not much more than a bale of hay.
But they're going to win one eventually. Is this the year? Hartnell will be incredibly hard to beat, that's for sure.Suggest a correction