Monday 14 October 2019

Gosden just Champion with Group One treble

Trainer John Gosden
Trainer John Gosden

Marcus Armytage

John Gosden has had some great days in his training career, including winning the Derby twice, the Arc three times and that November Saturday 10 years ago when he went back to Santa Anita, where he started out as a trainer with a handful of horses, and won the Breeders' Cup Classic with Raven's Pass.

However, he will be hard pushed to have a much better one than yesterday's eighth Qipco British Champions Day when Roaring Lion, Cracksman and Stradivarius all won to remove any lingering doubt about his third UK trainers' title. His "not a bad day to have a treble" is surely one of the understatements of the year and each one was very different from the other: Roaring Lion overcame an aversion to soft ground to guts-out victory in the QEII, Cracksman coasted to victory in the Champion Stakes and Stradivarius owed his unbeaten season as champion stayer to a moment of Frankie Dettori's opportunism.

It may have taken a couple of races for Roaring Lion to catch fire this year but the grey colt has developed into a true champion over a mile and a quarter. Yesterday's mile, however, in the Ascot mud, was perhaps his toughest test because he detested the going. And though there was an inevitability about it when Oisín Murphy, a strong contender for jockey of the season, brought him with his run down the outside, he had to nurse him home to beat the fast-finishing I Can Fly a neck.

"What a horse," exclaimed Gosden afterwards. "At no stage was he on the bridle. Oisín said he hated it. He won on very fast ground at Leopardstown, and he's probably a good-to-firm horse. When I walked the course I reassured everyone it was all right, but it was deep autumn ground. He and Oisín have grown in confidence, and that's very important. He didn't panic. It was very brave of his owners to run him, because if he'd been beaten it would have done nothing but devalue him. So it is down to the horse, the jockey and a very brave owner. I think on good ground he'd have won by five."

Murphy, 23, winning his ninth Group One of the year, said: "I had a plan in my head and it worked. If he'd gone 10 furlongs today I think he'd have been in trouble." In all likelihood that was Roaring Lion's swansong before he goes to Tweenhill Stud for a stallion career. However, the Breeders' Cup Classic in a fortnight is an outside possibility - although I dare say yesterday's race will have left its mark.

Owned by Sheikh Fahad Al Thani and his brothers' Qatar Racing, which is also Qipco, this was one victory no one was going to begrudge them. "I think sharing this day with my brothers probably caps everything," said Sheikh Fahad. "The day has become a proper finale to the season. It took us five years to win with Simple Verse and a few more years for this."

The signs were ominous for Cracksman when Dettori started pushing him round Swinley Bottom, but it was only temporary. When he lined up for home there was no stopping him, and in conditions he loves but has not had this season, he galloped six lengths clear of Crystal Ocean in a near repeat of last year's race. Through the last half furlong Dettori was able to salute the crowd. "It's super to have him back," said Gosden. "He likes to get his toe in the ground. He's a hugely talented horse, and he showed it today."

"All the lights were on, and when I kicked he went whoosh," said Dettori. "It was brilliant. He did it all on his own."

No matter how much racing chucks at the marketing of British Champions Day, you cannot get off to a better start than a Dettori flying dismount, and yesterday it was from the Champion stayer, Stradivarius, after winning the Long Distance Cup.

With the ground and inside draw - even with only six runners - against him, it took a moment of brilliance from Dettori to win it. Following Flag Of Honour on the rail and escorted by the other two Ballydoyle runners, Dettori and Stradivarius were boxed up, gift wrapped and all ready to send out for Christmas. But the Sellotape came unstuck when, about two furlongs out, Ryan Moore momentarily drifted off the inside; a jockey of Dettori's experience does not need that sort of invitation to be followed up by an email reminder to reply.

Stradivarius shot through the gap and, in fact, was chased home by Willie Mullins's Thomas Hobson rather than any of the Ballydoyle trio. Dettori received a three-day ban for squeezing the runner-up inside the last 100 yards, but it made no difference to the outcome.

Moore got some revenge when Magical, fancied by Aidan O'Brien for the Epsom Oaks until she was injured 10 days before the race, beat the Gosden pair Coronet and Lah Ti Dar in the Fillies and Mares Stakes a length and three quarters of a length. Second and third in that was the only blemish on Gosden's otherwise perfect scorecard.


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