Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Epsom Delights

Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Epsom Delights

Article excerpt

Watching the contestants parade at Epsom for this year's Oaks, I remembered the great D. Wayne Lukas's pronouncement on selecting fillies: 'She should have a head like a princess, a butt like a washerwoman and walk like a hooker.' The John Gosden-trained Taghrooda, listed a month earlier as the first of our Twelve to Follow this season, ticked all those boxes. I doubled my bet and cheered her home nearly four lengths clear of the biggest Oaks field in 40 years.

Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, an owner who gives much to the sport, has had a lean few years and it was good to see another Classic success for his blue and white colours. Even better on his first Oaks ride was the first Classic success for the modest, hard-working Paul Hanagan, the former champion jockey who uprooted his family from Yorkshire when invited to succeed Richard Hills as Sheikh Hamdan's No. 1 rider. He swapped a predictable life as Richard Fahey's top jockey for the much trickier role of partnering Hamdan horses spread across several competing yards. Hanagan has proved himself a genuine team player and there was both respect and affection in the arm that went around Paul's shoulders from John Gosden at the post-race press conference.

In the winner's enclosure, I expressed my surprise to Rachel Hood -- who combines her role as Mrs Gosden with being President of the Racehorse Owners Association and Newmarket's new heritage-minded mayor -- that Taghrooda's success was John's first in the Oaks. 'Well, they can't call him a rubbish trainer now,' she grinned. It is a long time since anybody would have dreamed of doing that. One American trainer allegedly declared of the once California-based Gosden, as he awaited his first Classic success, 'I taught him everything he knows, but not everything I know,' but the cerebral trainer with the Roman senator's profile and a taste for both opera and the Rolling Stones has long had a trophy cupboard stuffed with the answers to any early questions.

Along with Breeders Cup successes, John Gosden has won a Derby with Benny The Dip, a 1,000 Guineas with Lahan and no fewer than four St Legers with Shantou, Lucarno, Arctic Cosmos and Masked Marvel. We had all expected a 2,000 Guineas victory this year with Kingman, shocked on the day by the 40-1 Night of Thunder, but he soon made amends with an imperious victory in the Irish equivalent. And although he didn't have a Derby contender to beat Australia, he did manage third with the supplemented Romsdal. …

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