A first mate differs from past masters

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The Independent Online
So much for racing's feudal tradition, a touch of the jockey's forelock, respectful appendage. "John," interrupted Benny the Dip's trainer, John Gosden, when Willie Ryan called him mister. So much, too, for the cynical theory that nice guys finish last.

Few know the vagaries of racing better than this pair. Three years ago, in the most recent of his previous Derby appearances, Ryan was carried from the track with broken ribs after Foyer came down. Two years ago Gosden suffered the disappointment of Tamure's defeat by Lammtarra when the great prize appeared to be in his grasp.

Of course, there was more than good fellowship - "We're mates," Gosden said - to the romance of Ryan's elevation after the reshuffling caused when Gosden's regular jockey, Frankie Dettori was claimed for Bold Demand and Olivier Peslier chose Cloudings. Until the middle of last week it was still between Ryan, Gary Hind and Tony Garth. "We chose Willie," Gosden said, "because he had been there before and been knocked about in the ring. When you have earned a few scars, sometimes that is the better way in life."

Not that Ryan was greatly impressed by the opportunity. In fact, what he had to say after riding out on Benny the Dip last Thursday doesn't stand repeating on these pages. Along with the widespread conclusion that the 4-6 favourite, Entrepreneur, was about to enter the Derby pantheon it did not suggest a considerable improvement in Ryan's fortunes.

But who can truly tell in racing? Benny The Dip is the sort of name that appeals to casual punters and he had plenty of support around the boards and at the betting windows. A sense of stealing money.

When they went down to the start on a glorious day, the Derby appearing to have reclaimed a lot of its old appeal, most eyes were on Entrepreneur and serious investment kept it firm in the market. What then happened is a mystery for which nobody connected with Enterpreneur, especially the jockey, Michael Kinane, could find an explanation. Even before they reached the top of the hill it was apparent that the talented and greatly experienced Irishman had problems. Indeed, with a mile still to run Entrepreneur already looked beaten.

The nervousness felt by some in the Entrepreneur camp was quickly developing into the realisation of a huge loss in projected stud value. Thought to be blessed with the twin advantages of speed and stamina, the favourite simply wasn't going anywhere. "He would not have won at a mile, any distance," Kinane said afterwards.

Meanwhile, Ryan could see a chance the like of which he had never seen before. Hitting the straight there was only a vast sea of faces before him. Taking Benny the Dip's suspect stamina into account, Gosden had advised going from the front. "We decided to take a shot at it," he said.

Not that it was all over bar the shouting. Coming from last, my personal choice, Silver Patriarch, mounted a thrilling challenge and only inches separated them at the finish. But how could you begrudge the popular winning combination. Willie and John. It sounds so much better than Ryan and Mr Gosden.