If there is not a picture of Robert The Bruce on John Gosden's office wall, there should be. Three times this season his Raven's Pass had tried against Henrythenavigator, and three times he failed. But here yesterday, in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, persistence was rewarded. The spider reached the top of the web and grabbed the fat Group One prize.
All season, the distance between the two colts had been diminishing. In the 2,000 Guineas in May, it had been four and a half lengths, in theSt James's Palace Stakes in June, three-quarters of a length, and in the Sussex Stakes in July, a head. This time in the European finale to the elitemiling circuit, Raven's Pass was a length to the good. "It's the last dance you want," said Gosden. "That's the one you remember."
The contest was worthy of its billing as the seasonal decider. The pacemakers, Honoured Guest for Henrythenavigator and Racinger for Tamayuz, ensured a true gallop. The perceived big three, Henrythenavigator, Raven's Pass and Tamayuz, swept through together two furlongs out, with the French challenger the first to crack.
Jimmy Fortune, on Raven's Pass, took the battle to his old rival and doggedly though Henrythenavigator, the 11-8 favourite, kept up the pressure as he responded gamely to Johnny Murtagh's urgings, he was always second best.
"Perhaps I got it wrong at Goodwood," Fortune admitted. "Early on in his career he had been a bit keen in his races, and I think I probably overdid the relaxing at the back. If I'd kicked on sooner then we might have beaten him before now, but we'd always been slightly worried about him stopping in front."Today, I tried to sit and sit as long as I could in front, before I really dug in. I could sense Johnny coming to my quarters, and credit to my lad, when I got serious with him, he really answered." The pair drew more than four lengths clear of Sabana Perdida as Tamayuz faded to fourth.
"It all went wrong in the Guineas from his draw," said Gosden, "but he ran a blinder at Ascot, though we were beaten fair and square. The Sussex Sta kes is water under the bridge now, but this time we knew we had to be handier. And that was the only plan, just be handier."
Henrythenavigator's defeat was a disappointing end to the week for Aidan O'Brien and the Ballydoyle team, who do not intend to appeal against punishments levied by the authorities for their breaches of the so-called team tactic rules.
"He ran a stormer," said O'Brien. "The ground was a little lose on top – he spins a bit on it, he's so much better on real fast ground he can grab – but there's never been much between the two horses, and it was the other's turn today."
Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator may yet meet again, in California next month. The Breeders' Cup meeting at Santa Anita offers a variety of targets, including the Mile on turf and the ten-furlong Classic on a new artificialsurface. Either horse could go foreither race, with Duke Of Marmalade also factored intoBallydoyle plans. The four-year-old is likely to run in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe a week today, and has either the Classic or the mile-and-a-half Turf pencilled in thereafter.
Raven's Pass, who carried the colours of Sheikh Mohammed's wife, Princess Haya of Jordan, for the first time yesterday after a transfer of ownership, ended a perfect day for Gosden, for earlier his star two-year-old filly Rainbow View took her record to four from four in the day's other Group One, the Fillies' Mile.
The daughter of Dynaformer, owned and bred by Pennsylvanian George Strawbridge, is now as short as 7-4 for next year's 1,000 Guineas after coming though her test. In her previous outings, her brilliance had carried her though not only unbeaten but unextended, but yesterday's rivals over one of the stiffest miles inthe country represented a tough examination.
She passed it with A-star talent – she powered past Fantasia to win by two and a half lengths – and high praise from her trainer. "The ground is loose," said Gosden, "and that does not make it easy for any horse, but particularly a young one, and one coming off the pace. It was a test of her stamina as well as her speed. But though she's not very big, she is all heart, and that will take her a long way."
That may, like her older stablemate, be to the West Coast before her date next May at Newmarket. Her win, and that of Royal Lodge Stakes winner Jukebox Jury, guaranteed a place in one of the valuable Juvenile contests at the Breeders' Cup meeting.