I've started . . . so I'll finish. A relationship that started over 20 years ago, when a young shaven-headed Italian arrived at the yard of John Gosden in the shivering cold on the first of the year armed with an apprentice title, was restored in the ultimate fashion as the irrepressible Frankie Dettori guided home heavily-backed favourite Golden Horn in the world's most famous Flat race, the Derby, at Epsom yesterday.
Since the dissolution of their early partnership, Frankie and Johnny had both won a Derby each. "He won the Derby without me and I won it without him," an elated Dettori exclaimed after yesterday's triumph.
Their individual wins (in 2007 and 1997 respectively) formed a small part of a very sinuous path conspiring to see them yesterday combine to win their second Derby. The race was particularly satisfying for the trainer, who was not only scratching a near-20 year itch, but did so thoroughly by leading up the second in the race as well in Jack Hobbs.
The old cliché that if you think you have two Derby horses you probably don't have one needs to add the small-print qualifier - "except if they finish first and second". The last trainer to train the first pair home in the Derby was Aidan O'Brien with High Chaparral and Hawk Wing (and they didn't turn out too bad), and before that it was over 50 years previously.
There is no little irony in the fact that Dettori chose Jack Hobbs over Golden Horn in the Derby trial at York and only found himself on the Dante winner yesterday by dint of Godolphin purchasing a controlling share in Jack Hobbs after that race and claiming William Buick to ride. What's perhaps more ironic in a historical context is that Dettori was deprived of the ride in 1997 on Gosden's Benny The Dip by being claimed just 24 hours before the race for a 20/1 shot owned by his then retainer Godolphin.
The York Dante is often the strongest Derby trial and so it proved yesterday with the 1, 2 from that race filling the same positions yesterday, and beyond that, pulling emphatically clear of the rest of the field to the tune of nearly five lengths.
With stamina a key question-mark about the favourite, allied with a three-strong stamina-packed battalion from Ballydoyle, it looked certain the race would be run at a piercing gallop. And so it proved, although fancied Elm Park's participation in the sacrificial pace-setting was far less anticipated. The runaway Elm Park only forced the front-running Hans Holbein to press even harder on the gas and contributed to the race being run in a break-neck time only one second outside Workforce's track record.
"I told Frankie to ride a cool race," Gosden admitted afterwards and that's precisely what the wise 44-year-old now fully hirsute Italian head did. "I knew they'd go fast," Dettori commented. "My plan was to sit on the tail of William Buick (Jack Hobbs) and hopefully just push the button." The ice-cool Italian sat with just three horses behind him for most of the race, and was still in that far-back position after the Tattenham Corner descent as the field hit the home straight. As the pacemakers began to flag and Jack Hobbs began a move, Frankie hit the accelerator. For a moment Golden Horn stalled. "Never mind 'would he stay' - I hit a flat spot and couldn't get him going!" Dettori joked afterwards. However, one backhander and the favourite hit overdrive down the outside and scythed down his rivals for a comfortable three-and-a-half-length victory.
Asked to compare the victory to his win on Authorized in 2007, Dettori replied: "After four years without a ride, I appreciate more what it is now to win the Derby".
Whilst the overall quality of the 12-runner Derby may have lacked depth, the first two home nonetheless look top-drawer. Their paths are due to diverge from here with Golden Horn likely to drop back in trip for the Eclipse (for which he was installed 6/4 favourite), and Jack Hobbs likely to travel to the Curragh for the Irish Derby.
Finally, I was reminded of the post-race interview given by Gosden after the Coolmore-owned Christophermarlowe won the Epsom Derby Trial on April 22. Afterwards he mentioned he had another possible Derby candidate still to run at in the following days.
Two days later, Jack Hobbs won a Sandown handicap by 12 lengths off 85 and shot to Derby favouritism.
His final remark as the interviewer pushed him for the name Jack Hobbs was nonchalantly simple: "Don't forget Golden Horn". Indeed.
Sunday Indo Sport