Andy Stephens talks to dual champion trainer John Gosden about his enjoyment of sparring with Aidan O'Brien, how the master of Ballydoyle is a shoo-in to break Bobby Frankel's world record Group One haul and their clash in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.
By Andy Stephens at Newmarket
John Gosden has hailed the genius of Aidan O’Brien and says he enjoys the challenge of trying to compete with one of the most dominant trainers in the history of the sport.
O’Brien came within inches of chalking up his 24th Group One success of the year with September in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket on Friday and requires three more winners to overhaul the world record 25 that the late Bobby Frankel achieved in 2003.
He might conceivably break the record this weekend - he has four runners in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes back at Newmarket Saturday and will also be represented in three Group One races in Australia and Canada - and Gosden says it is not a matter of if he raises the bar to another level but when.
“I’ve had a word with Bobby [Frankel] and said ‘I’m afraid you are going to have to hand this baton over.’ Good old Bobby, he was a close friend of mine,” Gosden said on Friday.
“Aidan is well and truly lined up to do it. If he doesn’t do it here, Champions Day, or at the Breeders’ Cup, I’m sure we might all meet up in a Group One at Saint-Cloud [in November]. He’ll get the job done, don’t worry about that. What an achievement.”
Two-time champion trainer Gosden prevented O’Brien winning all ten Classics run in Britain and Ireland this year with the brilliant Enable (winner of the Oaks and Irish Oaks at the main expense of O’Brien-trained runners) and says he has a “great affinity” with Ballydoyle, having assisted Vincent O’Brien (no relation of Aidan) in 1976 and 1977.
He also got an insight into the modern-day workings of the yard, 40 years on, when spending a Sunday morning there after the Irish Derby in July.
“I was fascinated to watch the incredible attention to detail with every single horse and rider,” Gosden said. “It’s a beautiful place and it was absolutely immaculate.O'Brien is within touching distance of Bobby Frankel's world record (PA)
“It’s the gold standard, it really is. They are beautiful horses who are beautifully bred and that has been built up for years. When you take them on, you are taking on the very, very best. You have to be be completely on your game or you ain’t going to belong it.
“I have enormous respect for the quality of the horses and the superb training of them. Annoyingly, he’s [O’Brien] getting better and better.
“Any time you compete against him you know you are absolutely taking on the pinnacle and I find the challenge fascinating.
“I spend all my time trying to work his tactics out in races. When he has a few of them [in the same race], I try to work out who’s going to go forward, who’s going to sit out the back - trying to unravel that is like a Rubik’s Cube but I really enjoy the challenge.”
For many years Godolphin had a policy of not buying the stock of Galileo, the flagbearer among Coolmore’s breeding operation, but in recent months they have invested in yearlings bred by him - including the purchase of a £4.2 million daughter sired by him at Tattersalls this month. “You have to fight fire with fire,” Gosden reasoned.
On Saturday, O’Brien runs US Navy Flag (8-1), Seahenge (11-1), Threeandfourpence (40-1) and Mendelsson (50-1) in the Dewhurst, while Gosden relies on Emaraaty, taking winner of a maiden at Newbury last time and a general 9-2.
For once, though, neither are expected to win, with the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Expert Eye odds-on to preserve his unbeaten record.
“It’s a bold move to go from a Newbury maiden to the Dewhurst but Emaraaty has been in great order at home,” Gosden said. “First time he got boxed in and learnt a lot at Sandown, then won well. I’m slightly attracted to the fact that it’s at home, the weather is fine and the ground is going to be perfect.
“It’s probably a fact-finding mission but he’s a very generous, kind horse and he’ll give of his best. We’ll get a good line on him.”
Asked about Expert Eye, the runaway Vintage Stakes winner, he said: “I think he’s brilliant, that horse. I thought his win at Goodwood was beyond sensational. Let’s hope he turns up in good order and we can fight off the challenge from Ireland.”