‘You’re being unfaithful,’ says the punter’s wife brandishing a note found in her husband’s suit pocket: ‘Dorothea 07440 521321.’ ‘No, no, darling that’s a horse I plan to return next week with its form figures.’ Marital harmony is restored. Three weeks later he arrives home to find his wife on the doorstep with a suitcase packed and a taxi waiting. ‘What’s all this?’ ‘You left your mobile in the hall. Your horse called.’
If that glorious old stayer Stradivarius could talk it would surely be in the dignified tones of his trainer, John Gosden, who pointed out after his hero’s narrow defeat in the Goodwood Cup by Kyprios that because of how the race panned out Stradivarius was alone by the rail rather than upsides the winner in the center.
‘We were racing on our own – we had nothing to race with. Stradivarius is a wise old owl now and he knows when he gets to the front he has done his bit.’
The good news is that Stradivarius, an eight-year-old entirely entitled to be turning his thoughts more to pleasures yet to come at stud showed enough enjoyment still in racing to be given at least one more racecourse appearance. And how graceful it was of Frankie Dettori, replaced as his jockey by Andrea Atzeni, to come out publicly and wish the pair well. You have to feel a little sorry though for the victor, Kyprios, who added the Goodwood Cup to his Gold Cup at Ascot: he keeps winning races from losers who for understandable reasons get more attention than he does.
This year’s Qatar Goodwood Festival had it all. Jockey Jim Crowley may be a fitful sleeper but he always gets a good night when his next day’s ride is Baeed, the highest-rated horse in the world, who blitzed the Sussex Stakes field to retain his nine-race unbeaten record and take his earnings over £2 million. ‘Like doing the Tour de France on a motorbike,’ was trainer William Haggas’s apt description. He really can be compared to Frankel.
Then there was Nashwa’s victory in the Nassau Stakes for fillies. Nashwa gave Hollie Doyle her first Classic victory in the French Oaks, where they sat handy and pushed on three out. This time she was dropped in and went through the gears to pass all her seven rivals in the straight.
Hollie has become the racetrack crowd’s favorite and she earned heartfelt tributes from owner Imad Alsagar, who snapped her up with a retainer two years ago – and from Nashwa’s trainer John Gosden, who declared: ‘Hollie is a star. She has an incredible work ethic. As a rider she’s very savvy and strong, with great balance. She has the most wonderful personality and she’s so applied and focused.’ Focus was one of the issues in the brief falling-out between Gosden and his stable jockey Frankie Dettori and at 51 Frankie won’t be going on for ever. It sounded to me as though John and Thady Gosden have themselves written Hollie’s job application testimonial for when his departure comes.
Glorious weather and good to firm conditions put the emphasis on speed at this year’s Glorious Goodwood. Baattaash scorched across the downs to win the King George four times between 2017 and 2020 and trainer Charlie Hills was back on the winner’s podium when Khaadem triumphed for owners Jim and Fitri Hay in this year’s contest. The Platinum Queen broke the five-furlong track record for Richard Fahey, and Commanche Falls, whose trainer Michael Dods stayed up at Thirsk (‘It’s local and we had horses to gallop this morning’) became the first horse to win two consecutive Stewards Cups in 54 years.
For me, though, the speedster to note was Royal Scotsman, also owned by the Hays, who set a track record for juveniles in winning the Group 2 Richmond Stakes for Paul and Oliver Cole. Cole Senior, who won the Derby with Generous in 1991, reckons the Royal Scotsman to be as good as anything he has trained: ‘I couldn’t comprehend him being beaten.’ This is a serious horse.
A serious jockey-to-be for me is Benoit de la Sayette, vying with Harry Davies for the apprentice championship. I may though be a tiny bit prejudiced. I had kept faith with the quirky Orbaan, who took the Coral Golden mile, and backed him at 22-1. I also had Orbaan in a double with the improving Caius Chorister whom Benoit was partnering in the final handicap on Friday at 5-1. The young rider rode a copybook race, kept her nicely out of trouble on the outside and left enough in the tank to see off a determined challenge from James Doyle throughout the final furlong.
Significantly, de la Sayette is the first apprentice to be taken on by John Gosden and he won again for his own yard on Trawlerman, who is by no means an easy ride. Benoit gets plenty of advice from Frankie Dettori and Rab Havlin and calls Gosden père a ‘pressure-free boss’: ‘He wants you as relaxed as possible to let it flow naturally.’ It seems to be working.