Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Article excerpt

The one sight I was determined not to miss at Royal Ascot was that of the Queen from over the water coming to claim the hearts of English racegoers. The commanding way in which Treve won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last October stamped her as something very special and she should have been worth going a long way to see. But it turned out that the damp turf of Longchamp in the autumn and the quick ground at Ascot in June were not all the same to her. Although sheer quality brought her home in third in the Prince of Wales's Stakes, the fizz had escaped Treve's bottle before they left the stalls and Frankie Dettori reported that she ran flat all the way. It provided an opportunity for John Gosden's The Fugue, owned by Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber, to remind us that she deserved to have won an Oaks and is a top filly in her own right. She has now won Group Ones at three, four and five.

They would never have dreamt of taking on Treve on the soft in Paris, said the shrewd and sporting winning trainer, who paid tribute to Criquette Head-Maarek for taking the risk of bringing over her charge, but on fast ground at Ascot in June they reckoned they had a squeak against her. It turned out to be more of a barn door than a squeak and this year's Royal Ascot had already proved John's payback occasion when Kingman, the horse that neither he nor this column had dreamt of being beaten in the 2,000 Guineas, exploded down the Ascot straight to defeat his Newmarket conqueror Night of Thunder comprehensively.

To complete the happiness at Clarehaven Gosden's Eagle Top won the King Edward VII Stakes, the race they call the 'Ascot Derby', so easily that jockey William Buick had to take a pull two furlongs out to stop him getting to the front too soon. John Gosden also won the Chesham Stakes for two-year-olds with the home-bred Richard Pankhurst. He is named after the suffragette Emily's husband and is owned by the busy Rachel Hood, aka Mrs Gosden. Rachel now has so many roles in racing politics that at least one fellow Newmarket trainer has taken to calling John Gosden 'Denis', but none, I suspect, will give her as much pleasure as the future career of this exciting prospect.

The victories of Wow Factor, Toronado and Baitha Alga in Qatari colours reminded us all of the new force in racing and a string of successes by other Emerald Isle raiders reminded us that Aidan O'Brien isn't the only Irishman who can train racehorses. …

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