Magazine article The Spectator

Ask the Expert

Magazine article The Spectator

Ask the Expert

Article excerpt

He may, unusually, have a Cambridge economics degree but nobody in racing looks the part better than John Gosden. The panama or brown trilby according to the weather. The upright physical presence of a man you could easily imagine as a battalion commander. The crinkle of experience about eyes which have studied the racing scene from the inside at his father Towser's Lewes yard, in Caracas, Venezuela, on America's West Coast and at Manton. The calm confidence exuding from the man who learnt his trade at the feet of masters like Vincent O'Brien at Ballydoyle and Noel Murless in Newmarket, which is once again Gosden's home base.

Listen to John Gosden on the racecourse or read him in the sporting press and he makes more sense than anybody talking about the problems of a prize-money structure which virtually forces owners to go abroad with horses which show more than average talent. He is full of ideas about the need for starter barns attached to racecourses to provide opportunities for fledgling trainers or about the need to boost racing's fortunes with on-track gambling slots.

You feel he should be conducting one-onone tutorials with everyone involved in the administration of racing. And he can train a bit, too, as he showed once again with the victory of the 5-1 favourite Pipedreamer in the Cambridgeshire, the first of the big autumn handicaps, bringing the three-yearold back from a two-month absence to dominate the 30-plus field and land one of the biggest gambles in the race for years.

Gosden had won a Cambridgeshire before. He did it with Halling back in 1984 and Halling went on to be a top-class Group horse, winning an Eclipse among other big races. Pipedreamer, too, will surely go on to even better things. Jockey Jimmy Fortune said that his victory had never been in doubt.

'He travelled like a Group horse throughout and I'm sure that's what he is really. He's a lovely big horse and he's done nothing but progress from race to race.' It was a victory not without some drama.

Through the week Gosden had been tortured by the thought he might have to pull out the ante-post favourite for the race because the ground would be too firm for the big three-year-old. He issued public warnings to that effect and was always going to put the horse first, but was deeply mindful, too, of those who would be blowing their money if he did. In the event, after a sunny first day, the cloud cover remained over Newmarket for the next two days, the ground did not dry out as much as he had feared and, after walking the course at 11 a. m. , Pipedreamer's trainer was happy to let him take part. …

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