Racing: Gosden puts in a word for Glamis
A long-shot may add to the excellent Derby record of another Newmarket `outsider'.
Thursday 27 May 1999
Since he returned to Britain in 1988 many people have seemed to be Billy Liar for the trainer, inventing unlikely postings for the big man. It has all stemmed from Gosden's relationship with Sheikh Mohammed and the rumour mill has cancelled all leave ever since the world's most powerful owner started forming his own Godolphin battalion largely at the expense of Gosden's string at Stanley House.
"The first five years I was back in this country the rumour was always that I would be returning to America," Gosden says. "I'll admit I was not particularly happy then, but I was never going back to America because I'm not the type of person who gives up very easily.
"The next three years, just at the time when Guy Harwood was winding down, I was supposed to be going to Pulborough. And, for the last two years, Godolphin have meant to be coming here and I'm going off to do anything from management to retiring from training altogether and even back to Pulborough again so I hear this week. They've all been very interesting stories, but unfortunately they've been spurious and nonsensical as well."
The oddity is that while Gosden may no longer be getting the cream of the desert crop he is enjoying his profession like at no other time. As he labours happily on the Bury Road the freeze of 1988 which greeted him seems distant.
Gosden was not expecting a tickertape reception from his fellow trainers when he was repatriated from the United States by Sheikh Mohammed. Neither, though, did he imagine sniper fire coming from the ramparts of Fort Suffolk. "Newmarket had the mentality of a garrison town and I was some interloper from outside," he says. "The fact that I was born and brought up in England and had been with Noel Murless in Newmarket for two years seemed to count for nothing. The attitude was that I was some bloody American coming back to nick the good horses.
"People like Mark Prescott were great from the start. Others were not. I've always felt there are people here who have delusions of grandeur and a sense of being something more important in the world than they really are.
"But now it's better. I happen to be very happy here. I've every intention of training in Newmarket for as long as I can, as long as the health holds up. So I'm not going to be running off to become a Trappist monk.''
Indeed, it would be more likely for Gosden to become a hairdresser's model. There is no-one in his craft comparable in communication skills. Gosden can talk. He has trained for Elizabeth Taylor and Ronnie Wood, for the old nobility and new money of David Platt and Michael Owen. He knows how to find the level. The greatest gift though has been to keep his counsel. When Henry Cecil questioned Sheikh Mohammed the vans were soon arriving. Gosden has always accepted the Dubaian's decisions (a chunky retainer helps in this respect) and got on with it.
In the early days, the Sheikh's Darley Stud Management company was in a mess. There were 52 trainers on the payroll supervising the progeny of unproven stallions. Gosden was given what was meant to be the best, but the results did not come. Sheikh Mohammed may have forgiven him this, but for some observers it was a sign of fallibility. Some wrote about it. Gosden must have been stung, but he has never let it show.
"The [Darley] operation through the Eighties had to be rationalised," he says. "The sheer number of horses, the number of trainers was, to put it politely, unnecessary. The quality of stock coming into this yard has diminished, but then for the first five years I was here it wasn't that great anyhow. In life, my life, I've got to get on with what's available and do the best I can."
The great irony is that after all the years of supposed Derby horses being ferried into his yard by Sheikh Mohammed, John Gosden may at last be about to send out the maroon and white silks to Blue Riband victory while his principal owner's attention is elsewhere.
There are Godolphin horses more fancied than Glamis but Gosden is not a man to discount in the Derby. His last four runners in the Classic have been placed, the efforts of Tamure, Presenting and Shantou preceding Benny The Dip's victory two years ago.
"Glamis will get the trip and he should handle the track," the trainer said. "If it's good or good to firm ground he might get a little piece of what is a big pie. To win would be nice but we would still have to keep going. The future is what drives you. I'm not interested in looking over my shoulder."
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