John Gosden's acceptance speech was the customary string of thank-yous as he picked up International Trainer of the Year in front of the racing fraternity this week. But a sudden frisson gripped the audience at the Horserace Writers' and Photographers' Association lunch as the usually mild-mannered trainer launched a barbed attack on a man sitting nearby, the Earl of Derby, the event's patron.
"I know you are going through pecuniary times but I'm sorry to tell you there will be a collection tonight as you leave. Your patron is requiring a collection for an appeal he launched last Friday to brick over a greenfield site in Newmarket, 160 acres," Mr Gosden said. "Ignore the disingenuous PR. It is all about money and sheer greed."
Everyone at London's Royal Lancaster Hotel ceremony knew exactly what he was referring to, Lord Derby's plan to develop a large area on the outskirts of the Suffolk market town. Mr Gosden's wife, Rachel Hood, a leading light in the Save Historic Newmarket action group, is adamant that the entire racing world – including His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his wife Princess Haya – is enraged by the proposal to "devastate and damage" the genteel Suffolk town.
The Sheikh's Godolphin Stables was among the signatories opposing Lord Derby's plans to build 1,200 houses along with shops, offices and leisure facilities at Hatchfield Farm when it came before Forest Heath District Council. The initial plan was rejected by the council on traffic grounds, but he lodged an appeal with the planning inspectorate on Friday.
"The entire racing and breeding industry has asked Lord Derby not to do this," Ms Hood said. "This is not a Nimby thing. Newmarket is a unique, historic town. People are obviously incensed and Lord Derby has been asked numerous times not to do this. He is riding roughshod over all of us. He doesn't even live in Newmarket. He lives near Liverpool."
The racing fraternity has lodged challenge at the High Court against the council's planning strategy. The authority calls this "a deplorable waste of taxpayers' money which it will be forced to defend". Lord Derby is trying to be conciliatory. He said: "Since the rejection of my application I have been trying to find a compromise solution that works for all ... That I have lodged this appeal must not detract from the fact that it remains my sincere wish that it will still be possible to work with the community to produce a new scheme that has support from most sections of Newmarket."