john gosden is already responsible for horse of the year Golden Horn as the Dante, Derby and Arc winner prepares for Breeders’ Cup glory in America next weekend.
However the champion trainer, who made history by becoming the first man to accrue more than £5m in prize money in a single campaign, could head into the Flat’s winter break with next year’s horse of the year at his Clarehaven stables if Foundation maintains his unbeaten record in today’s Racing Post Trophy – the final Group One race of the 2015 season.
Owned by Highclere Thoroughbred Racing whose syndicate members include Sir Alex Ferguson, and the mount of racing’s renaissance man Frankie Dettori, Foundation could not have been more impressive when beating today’s principal rival, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Deauville, in the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes four weeks ago.
Yet Gosden is perturbed at the volume of rain forecast for Doncaster and does not want to compromise the future prospects of the two-year-old colt who is already ante-post favourite for next year’s Epsom Derby.
“If it turns soft, or very soft, it would compromise Foundation’s chances,” Gosden told The Yorkshire Post.
“He does have a good turn of foot and heavy rain would bring Deauville and the Nottingham maiden winner Mengli Khan back into play.
“He can handle soft ground, but it doesn’t play to his strengths.”
For such an illustrious trainer, the Racing Post Trophy is a notable omission from an otherwise impeccable CV which now, belatedly, includes the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe after Golden Horn and Dettori overcame an unfavourable draw to gallop to victory earlier this month.
And there is good reason. He does not want his young horses to over-extend themselves, hence his concern at the prospect of conditions deteriorating rapidly in South Yorkshire following a prolonged dry spell.
“You are thinking about next year all the time,” said Newmarket-based Gosden. “A race on heavy ground at this time of year is not a good thing.
“I am keen to get maidens, who have not won a race, out at this time of year, see the track and learn about their job, but it is all about next year.
“To be honest, I haven’t had many runners in the Racing Post Trophy because the ground is usually soft or heavy by the end of October.”
However, it is a measure of Gosden’s regard for Foundation that he is prepared to run the two-year-old for a fourth time – his Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs, by contrast, only ran once last season and that was on December 27 on the Wolverhampton all-weather.
The key, from a trainer’s perspective, is to determine when conditions are at their optimum for young horses. Golden Horn’s only race last year came at Nottingham in late October and Gosden’s patience will receive the ultimate reward if Anthony Oppenheimer’s brilliant champion wins the Breeders’ Cup Turf in Kentucky in seven days before being retired to stud.
The margins are fine. This will be Golden Horn’s eighth start this year – his only defeat came in York’s Juddmonte International when the misuse of the pacemaker and softer than ideal going conspired against Dettori’s mount – but Gosden is phlegmatic and philosophical in equal measure.
“He worked on Wednesday and Frankie was pleased with him,” added the handler whose Royal Artilley won impressively at Doncaster yesterday and could develop into a star of the future.
“He has held his condition extremely well. He put the weight back on to what he was before the Arc five days after the race. He has some constitution and that is the one thing that gives us hope racing this late in the year with him
“However, I was in California when Dancing Brave was beaten in the Breeders’ Cup after winning the 1986 Arc. It is the risk that you take. People have to understand this. If he wins, fantastic. If it is a dance too far, he’s still had a great year. We have had a fabulous season. If you have good horses, good owners and good staff, and as long as the jockey and trainer don’t mess up, you should do well.”