Scene set for Buick to realise his full potential
Every now and again, from all the hundreds of would-be jockeys who set out in racing -- some get no further than the alarm going off on the first morning -- an outstanding talent emerges.
Some, like Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore, go overnight from boys to men, propelled straight into the big time, skipping the traditional post-apprentice blues and career lulls endured by the majority. The latest 'find' is William Buick and, at 22, he has a chance to cement his first season as stable jockey to John Gosden by winning his first Classic, Saturday's Ladbroke St Leger at Doncaster, on Arctic Cosmos.
Buick's natural talent, evident from the start, has been augmented by careful management from his father Walter, a former jockey, whose have-saddle-will-travel work ethic took him all over Europe. Former trainer Ian Balding, who took an almost paternalistic interest in him from the moment he started riding out in the holidays aged 13, has been a great help too.
Having missed out on Moore, Gosden was determined the same would not happen again and snapped up Buick at the start of the year, a season before some would have considered him ready for such a major job. Even the trainer may have regarded it as a long-term project but, before the British Turf season was 24 hours old in March, Buick had won the Dubai Sheema Classic, worth £1.8m to the winner, on Dar Re Mi, his third ride for the stable.
It has been a little quieter on the domestic front, but he won the Arlington Million on Debussy a fortnight ago. Then, 16 hours later in France, he won the Prix Morny on Dream Ahead for David Simcock to complete an intercontinental Group One double.
"He has," says Balding, "now that he's riding really good horses, fulfilled everything we thought he would. He has the temperament, brain and judgment for the big occasion. He always was a brighter than average jockey. He hasn't got far to go to be at the very top."
Brought up in Oslo, 10 minutes from the country's only racetrack, Norwegian is Buick's first language. Before school he would ride out, even when it was -10C. "Sometimes your hands stuck to the reins," he recalls.
"Race-riding was all I wanted to do and at school I was really only waiting to turn 16. I appreciate I've been lucky to have some very good people around me -- I still have -- and being at the Baldings' really helped."
The call from Gosden, for whom he had never sat on a horse, came out of the blue. "He sort of rang to see how I was fixed," Buick recalls. "It's not the sort of offer you turn down. I came back from Dubai for five days to get to know Dar Re Mi and winning one of the richest races in the world on her at Meydan was a dream come true."
Buick's star has not been the only thing in ascendancy lately, he has been growing upwards too but, like everything else, he seems to have that under control. "It was a bit of shock -- I used to have a fry up for breakfast and still do 8st 4lbs," he reveals. "Now I have to be a bit more careful just to do 8st 6lbs, but I eat very healthily."
He would like a crack at the championship one day, but it is not an all consuming passion. "I'm a big fan of Paul Hanagan, he's been riding so well, but you look at him and you can see he's shattered.
"He's going to need a serious holiday when it's over. I'm not afraid of hard work, but my first responsibility is to John Gosden. If you get back from Bath at midnight I wonder if you fully do a horse justice in a big race the next day. It's a fine line."
So where does he see himself in 10 years? "Settled, established and hopefully in the same job," he says unassumingly, "with a few more big winners." The first of them may well be Arctic Cosmos.