Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Buick speeds to 'timely winner'

William Buick celebrates on Hawkbill. Photo: Julian Herbert/PA Wire
William Buick celebrates on Hawkbill. Photo: Julian Herbert/PA Wire

Chris Cook

What had looked an underwhelming Eclipse, with the betting market interested in just one runner, produced a thrilling finish, a surprise outcome and the renewal of a rivalry that seemed to have lapsed into racing history.

It was Godolphin versus Coolmore once more and on this occasion Dubai trumped Ireland as Hawkbill stayed on dourly to beat The Gurkha.

No one had more cause to be delighted with the outcome than the winning jockey, William Buick, who now begins a month-long ban, the result of a meltdown at Chantilly a fortnight ago, where he caused interference and then, when handed a fortnight's suspension, responded by telling the stewards they were corrupt. The ban was promptly doubled and Buick, now suitably contrite, should consider himself lucky his "holiday" will not be longer.

He declined to go back over that ground here, saying only of this success: "I needed it. It's probably the most timely winner I've ever had, to be honest."

It might be said with as much justice that Godolphin needed this. The former superpower, whose royal blue colours were carried to Eclipse glory three times in four years in the 90s, had not enjoyed success in this for a dozen years.

The more recent policy of having horses in stables all around Britain and Ireland has borne fruit but Hawkbill, trained by Charlie Appleby, is the first Godolphin horse based in Newmarket to win a domestic Group One for almost two years. "I love Charlie, I love Saeed (bin Suroor), I love our own trainers," said John Ferguson, Godolphin's chief executive. "But the important thing is for the team as a whole to be winning races worldwide."

In Hawkbill, Sheikh Mohammed's outfit now have a standard-bearer for the most high-profile races, since it is not hard to imagine him stepping up in distance for Ascot's King George in three weeks. Buick might prefer that he did not run until August at least. He joked that he had argued for Hawkbill to go straight to the Arc in October. Appleby begged for time to formulate a plan.

Temperament seems to have been a big issue with this handsome chestnut, as all concerned spoke of how he had "grown up". His reappearance run was at Newmarket, about a mile from his stable, in the hope that he might remain calm in the build-up so close to home. He was able to win at Royal Ascot despite getting very warm in the paddock.

The result brought more frustration for fans of The Gurkha, who had to be taken back off the winner's heels at the turn for home, prompting the stewards to have a look before concluding no offence had been committed.

Ryan Moore, The Gurkha's jockey, appeared disgusted about something as he debriefed the trainer, Aidan O'Brien. "It was a little bit rough off of the bend," O'Brien said, adding that his colt's stamina ran out close to home. "Maybe if it had happened a little bit smoother for him...".

The Gurkha has something to prove now, having been beaten at odds-on in consecutive races, but there is no doubting his talent and he got within half a length of glory here, despite adverse circumstances. O'Brien hopes to turn him out again in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.

He could have done without the rain that made the going soft, as could the third home, Time Test. His trainer, Roger Charlton, is thinking of the Juddmonte International at York. "If anyone waters the ground up there in the next six weeks, they'll be going to Saudi Arabia," Charlton said, with zero pretence at making a joke of it.

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