If the gamble that the hugely experienced trainer John Gosden took in employing a big-time rookie as first jockey to his powerful Newmarket stable this year needed any justification, it came yet again here yesterday. The young man in question, William Buick, showed coolness beyond his years in winning the 234th St Leger on the 12-1 shot Arctic Cosmos. It may, as Gosden said, have been a leap of faith to recruit the 22-year-old in the close season. But it was one of which Bob Beamon would have been proud.
The extended mile and three-quarters of the oldest, longest and toughest Classic was uncharted territory for most of yesterday's 10 runners, including Arctic Cosmos. But the colt found the demanding test entirely to his liking, showing the class to travel strongly throughout and the stamina to power home as others around him faltered.
So easily was he galloping down the uncompromising run for home of more than half a mile that Buick was able to confidently steady him before pouncing past the trail- blazer, the proven stayer Corsica, with a furlong to run. "I didn't want to get to the front too soon," said the jockey, "but eventually I ran out of horses. When I gave him a kick, he quickened and I knew then that unless Nijinsky was behind me, I was going to win. It was actually all very straightforward."
Arctic Cosmos had a length and three-quarters to spare over Midas Touch (13-2), who stayed on dourly to pip the gallant Corsica (40-1) by a nose for second. The Oaks heroine Snow Fairy, who was cruising two furlongs out, came in a creditable fourth. But a massive gamble on Rewilding, backed to even-money favourite, went astray as Frankie Dettori's mount, for whom Corsica was pacemaker, finished a disappointing sixth.
The Ladbrokes-sponsored Group One prize was a first Classic success for Buick and a step into the spotlight, too, for Arctic Cosmos – unfashionably bred, unfashionably campaigned and, at one point in his life, unwanted. He cost only £50,000 as a yearling, back-pocket change in bloodstock terms, and yesterday earned £283,850.
A son of Derby winner North Light, he was bought on spec at auction by Gosden but was rejected by all the Clarehaven Stables owners to whom he was offered. He had to start his career, which includes wins earlier this year on two lowly all-weather tracks, in the colours of Gosden's wife, Rachel. It was only after he showed his burgeoning potential with a second place at Royal Ascot that the investment fund manager Robin Geffen, better known for his support of jump racing, bought into him.
It is not yet four years since the rider, born in Norway where his father Walter was an eight-time champion, rode his first winner, Bank On Benny, at Salisbury. Dettori was one of those who had pointed to Buick, champion apprentice two years ago, as one of the weighing room's most exciting talents, a view his current boss had already taken. "When I offered him the job he had not ridden for me in public, or even work at home," said Gosden. "But I spent a lot of time in the States around some great jockeys, and I'd like to think I know a good one when I see one.
"This one has the qualities needed – he's got judgement as a jockey and balance as a horseman. But he's also got personal equilibrium. We live in a world of celebrity froth which can be destructive to a young athlete, but William has had a proper grounding and upbringing. He's not going to lose his head." As if to demonstrate, Buick promptly got on with his day job with two more winners for his stable, an inspired last-stride pounce on Buthelezi and a cruise on Senate.
Arctic Cosmos, who wore blinkers for the first time yesterday, was a third St Leger win for Gosden, after Shantou in 1996 and Lucarno three years ago. "We decided to put the headgear on him after his third in his trial at Goodwood," he said. "It's not that he is ungenuine, he's still just a big baby and we thought they'd help him concentrate."
This colt is likely to drop back in distance for his next assignment, which may be the Breeders' Cup Turf in Kentucky in November. "We've had one dream come true today," added Gosden, "and we might go for another. Not bad for a horse no one wanted, and who had to go into my wife's Christmas stocking."