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Ten things we learnt from John Gosden on the Newmarket gallops

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Tue 23 Jul 2019
 Gosden talks to members of the media on Monday morning
Gosden talks to members of the media on Monday morning

John Gosden was a man in demand on Monday morning. After entertaining the media on Warren Hill shortly after 7am, he then hosted a group taking part in a “Discover Newmarket” tour.

In between, it was business as usual for the three-time champion trainer as he watched some of his leading lights stretch their legs ahead of significant assignments at Ascot and Goodwood over the coming days.

Racing’s biggest star, Enable, breezed past in preparation for the QIPCO-sponsored King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

She pricked her ears on seeing the assembled crew of journalists, photographers and camera crew to the left of her and Gosden observed that she also responded by going up a gear in speed, like an eager young athlete trying to catch the eye of the scouts.

It seems the eight-time Group One winner never wants to disappoint and takes pride in her work on and off the track.

By contrast, outstanding stayer Stradivarius had clearly seen the scorching temperatures forecast for the week ahead and was happy to conserve his energy. “He’s a cool dude,” observed Gosden and he was right – he could not have looked cooler if he had gone past sporting a pair of sunglasses.

The two-time Gold Cup winner was content to trundle past but more will be required from him next week when he attempts to become the first horse in history to win three Qatar Goodwood Cups in succession.

Too Darn Hot and Mehdaayih, who also have Group One assignments at the Glorious meeting, were also on view. Gosden spoke for about 25 minutes before patiently performing more one-to-one interviews, including one with Dave Yates that you will be see on Racing TV in the near future.

Here’s ten things we learnt.

Enable "wrong price" for the King George:

Enable is a general 4-6 to reclaim her King George crown but Gosden believes the bookmakers have got their sums wrong and should offer at least Evens.

“I see the betting industry has put her at a price where they don’t want anyone to be backing her,” he said. “I was told that if Frankie [Dettori] had not got carried away on Turgenev at the two and a half furlong marker in the Britannia [at Royal Ascot, when seeking a fifth successive win on the day] then we could have had a couple of institutions with rather a large hole under the waterline.

“I’m sure her price is not realistic to her chances, but is realistic to them [the bookmakers] trying to protect themselves if she does win.”

Warming to his theme, he added: “I think it’s a tall order. She won it as at three-year-old getting the weight, but it’s a little different when you are older and suddenly you’ve got a Derby winner coming at you, and he’s getting weight, and you have a wonderful older horse, Crystal Ocean, who ran a blinder in it last year in it and won the Prince of Wales’s well. It’s no penalty kick, absolutely not.”

Don’t argue with the Queen of racing:

 Enable and Dettori return after landing the Eclipse this month (Focusonracing)
Enable and Dettori return after landing the Eclipse this month (Focusonracing)

Enable was outstanding as a three-year-old and may go on to scale historic heights as a five-year-old but you sense that Gosden will always be proudest of her achievements during her truncated campaign last year because she had to overcome injury, surgery and illness before pulling off her Arc/Breeders' Cup double.

He also turned the clock back to the first time he set his eyes on her.

“When she came in as a yearling the one thing that amazed me straight away was the depth of her girth, her heart room,” he said. “Frankie says when she stretches in the last part of the race he actually feels his legs move, as she gets lower to pick up. There’s not many horses he will have felt that on.”

However, Enable is not all sweetness and light. “You would not want to wander in her box – she’d soon tell you that was her space,” he said. “She becomes very assertive. She knows what she wants, and what she wants to do. The key thing is to go with the flow and not argue with her.”

Too Darn Hot in the right place:

Gosden seems unlikely to ever forgive himself for the way he campaigned Too Darn Hot in the first part of the season but insists last season’s champion juvenile still has plenty of opportunities to show he remains the real deal – starting with the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on Wednesday week, for which he is 5-4 favourite.

The Dubawi colt got back to winning ways in the Group One Prix Jean Prat over 7f at Deauville on his latest start and has continued to delight his trainer.

“He showed what he’s good at it – he’s a very, very quick horse and we were stupidly trying to stretch him out off a severely interrupted preparation and missing the Guineas,” Gosden said.

“I think we’ve got him back in the right place now. I was most impressed by the way he hit the line strong. His best trip is probably seven furlongs, seven and a half, or an easy mile. He’s certainly not going to go further than that.

“The Sussex Stakes is a lovely race – you just hope you are not drawn too high.”

The Prix du Moulin, 32Red Sprint Cup, QIPCO British Champions Sprint and Breeders’ Cup Mile are all options that will be considered after his trip to the Sussex Downs.

Stradivarius ready to do his bit:

Stradivarius is already halfway towards winning another Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million and the bad news for those again offering the seven-figure sum is that the champion stayer is described as being in “great nick” for the Qatar Goodwood Cup on Tuesday week.

The five-year-old has won the past two renewals and it seems a long while ago that, two years ago, he was regarded as the “villain” for getting the better of Big Orange, who himself as attempting to achieve a hat-trick that year.

Stradivarius, a general 5-6 favourite, may be the dominant force on the staying division but all bar two of his 11 career wins have been achieved by a length and three quarters. Gosden believes it is pivotal to him maintaining his form.

Gosden said: “He worked on Saturday and did his usual thing. He went a length clear and said ‘That’s it, I’ve done my bit’. He looks after himself and is probably quite good at winning on points. It’s been a huge contributing factor.”

Comedy tip for Champion Stakes:

King Of Comedy looked an unlucky loser when splitting Circus Maximus and Too Darn Hot in the St James’s Palace Stakes but will not renew rivalry with them in the Sussex Stakes. Instead, he will be aimed at the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on August 11.

“I think the straight mile of Deauville will suit him well,” Gosden said. “We’ve freshened him up and given him a break since Ascot, as he was on the go fairly early in the spring. Physically he has done well.”

The trainer is excited at the prospect of King Of Comedy stepping up in trip towards the end of the season.

“I think in the end his best trip will be a mile and a quarter. The Irish Champion and Champion Stakes will be for him,” Gosden said. “After the St James’s Palace Stakes the first thing I said to the owner was that you must not forget Champions Day at Ascot in October. I think that will be right up his alley.”

Nassau a good fit for Mehdaayih:

Gosden will seek a fifth success in the Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood on Thursday week with the help of Mehdaayih.

Little went right for the filly when she was seventh in the Oaks, when favourite, but she bounced back with a Group Two win in the Prix de Malleret at Saint-Cloud last time.

“We are looking at the Nassau for her,” the trainer said. “She was unlucky in the Oaks, and quickened very well in France off a slow pace to win the Malleret. We think it will be the proper race to run her in.”

He added that Enbihaar, his Lancashire Oaks winner, would contest the Lillie Langtry Stakes. William Hill and Unibet offer 5-1.

Star Catcher heading for French exam:

Watch how Dettori and Star catcher landed the Irish Oaks

Irish Oaks heroine Star Catcher apparently spent Sunday eating and sleeping.

She will now be given a break before returning for the Prix Vermeille at ParisLongchamp in September.

That prompted a suggestion she might join Enable in the field for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Gosden quipped: “I’ll probably supplement her.”

He was being mischievous, having had to supplement her for the Irish Oaks last Saturday.

Dettori free to paint how he wants:

 Dettori is Evens . to ride 15 Group One winners this year (PA)
Dettori is Evens . to ride 15 Group One winners this year (PA)

Even by his own standards, Frankie Dettori is enjoying a phenomenal season with eight Group One triumphs in the past seven weeks.

Ladbrokes make him just Evens to partner 15 or more winners worldwide at the highest level before the year is out.

Gosden acknowledged Dettori being in great form and added: “It’s like Lewis Hamilton – you get in the zone, you get your confidence and you are not frightened of anything. But that doesn’t mean there are not banana skins around every corner.

“Frankie is riding well and Saturday [aboard Star Catcher in the Irish Oaks] was an example. He was concerned that they might go forward and then pull the pace up.

“We discussed it before the race and I said ‘you know that with me you’ve got a blank canvas. You paint the painting anyway you want’. He wasn’t happy with what was happening, so he set his own fractions.”

Dubai Warrior to return soon:

An easy winner on his debut at Chelmsford in November, Dubai Warrior began the year as a leading Derby hope but a freak injury has kept him on the sidelines.

Gosden explained that the Dansili colt had a roll but, as he got up, stood on his own hoof and split it down the middle. Thankfully, he is now on the mend and he was among those to work on Warren Hill on Monday.

“I’d never seen anything like it my life, it was quite shocking,” Gosden said. “He’s coming along nicely now and after three more bits of work we will be ready to run.”

Such mishaps are also why Gosden routinely uses the word “possibly” when discussing plans for his horses. He’s been there, done that and got the T-shirt when it comes to horse setbacks.

For instance, Dar Re Mi missed the Oaks one year after hurting herself when startled by a lawnmower being fired up.

Calyx has Champions Day target:

The sprint division looked at the mercy of Calyx after last year’s Coventry Stakes winner preserved his unbeaten record with a dazzling reappearance win in the Pavilion Stakes at Ascot in April.

He was cut to as short as 6-4 for the Commonwealth Cup but he then suffered a shock defeat in the Sandy Lane at Haydock, after which it was discovered he had suffered a pastern injury.

If he runs again this year, it will not be until the QIPCO British Champions Sprint at Ascot on October 19.

“He has been put on the easy list as he got hurt at Haydock,” Gosden said. “We are fighting our way back to see if we can get to Champions Day. He won’t run before then.”

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