Stars of training genius ready to light up Ascot
WITH the champion Flat trainer’s trophy virtually assured, John Gosden has a formidable hand for next Saturday’s Qipco Champions Day at Ascot.
Gosden, inset, holds the aces with four favourites for the most valuable day’s racing in Britain with £4.35m up for grabs.
“It’s been an incredible year and it’s exciting going to Champions Day with horses like Roaring Lion, Cracksman, Lah Ti Dar and Stradivarius,” said Gosden, on the windswept Newmarket gallops.
“It had been a cold miserable winter with no spring in Newmarket,” said Gosden. “Roaring Lion was not with us, he’s an American boy, and was not suited by that appalling weather.
“He ran a nice race in the Guineas then exploded in the Dante and has been a fabulous horse to train.
“I’ve never had one like him. He’s just got bigger and stronger throughout the season.
“I thought he showed a lot of guts in the Eclipse and was hugely impressive in the Juddmonte and then had an impossible task at Leopardstown in their Champion Stakes.
“He was forced wide, which is a desperate place to be at Leopardstown.
“I watched on my phone in The Fens, on the way back from Doncaster because the helicopter couldn’t fly over there, and it jammed and I thought we were beat.
“But when it came back on two minutes later, I was amazed we had won.
“We are very much looking forward to running him in the Champions Stakes. But we don’t want to see too much rain.
“I’ve also left him in the QEII. But look, I will be walking the track.”
Gosden also runs Cracksman in the Champion Stakes, the race he won last year. Since that imperious success the four-year-old has failed to repeat that performance in his last two outings.
He scraped home in the Coronation Cup at Epsom. And then he failed to fire at Royal Ascot, where he finished second behind Poet’s Word.
Gosden added: “He was very interested in the fillies running in the race before his. These girls were walking back to the stables, and it was a hot day, and he decided he wanted to jump over a little hedge and say ‘hello’. The Champion will be his last race.”
Gosden, unlike many trainers, is not against using blinkers or cheekpieces to enable him to get the best out of his horses.
“There’s always been a prejudice in this country against blinkers or anything of that nature.
“In America, I remember the great horses like Northern Dancer and Secretariat wearing blinkers. It’s another tool in the box – we will discuss using them on Cracksman.” Gosden, who is heading for his third trainers’ championship and is £900,000 clear of nearest rival Aidan O’Brien, appears to have a penalty kick with Stradivarius in the Qipco Long Distance Cup.
“I’m very happy with him, he worked with Cracksman the other day,” said Gosden. “This will be his final run of the year but he will be back next season. “He’s a diminutive horse. He should be giving pony rides on Brighton beach! When he won the Ascot Gold Cup it was an incredible performance.”
Lah Ti Dar, the runner-up to Kew Gardens in the St Leger, is on target for the Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes.
“She’s in super form,” said Gosden. “I’ve had a lot of horses hit hard by running them in the Leger but I’m astounded how well she’s taken her race. She’ll be joined by Coronet.” Gosden, ever the realist about the uncertainty of training racehorses, said: “When I trained in the States and won the Santa Anita Handicap, beating Charlie Whittingham, he put his big, cold hand on the back of my neck, and said ‘just remember John, the pole is slippery!’”