The statistics speak for themselves – The Grey Gatsby was, according to the form book, the joint third best racehorse in the world last year behind the Japanese superstars Just A Way and Epiphaneia.
Yet, while this gives proud owner Frank Gillespie enormous satisfaction, he’d rather take the word of jockey Ryan Moore who is widely regarded as the best in the business and who partnered the horse to victory in York’s Betfred Dante Stakes, the French Derby and then a momentous Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
After The Grey Gatsby, trained by Kevin Ryan on the summit of the Hambleton hills in North Yorkshire, outbattled Aidan O’Brien’s Australia in Ireland, the quietly-spoken Moore told Gillespie that this was “a very good horse”.
“Ryan doesn’t say a lot, so coming from him, it was a special moment,” Gillespie told The Yorkshire Post.
“He’s ridden many of the best horses in the world so it was some compliment.”
Now he hopes the jockey will be similarly effusive after tomorrow’s Grade One Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in which The Grey Gatsby puts his form credentials on the line against battle-hardened horses like Al Kazeem, the victor two years ago, and Postponed who won last season’s Great Voltigeur Stakes at York for a revitalised Luca Cumani.
Gillespie has every reason to be hopeful – his horse’s task has been made easier by the absence of Free World and the Ryan team believe The Grey Gatsby is back to full race sharpness after his second-place finish in the Dubai Gold Cup on his seasonal reappearance.
Yet Gillespie, who hails from County Donegal and whose business Heyrod Construction was instrumental in the building of Yorkshire landmarks like The Light in Leeds, still has to pinch himself that he can dine at racing’s top table courtesy of his champion colt whose career earnings now stand in excess of £2.2m.
Even though it is 30 years since he purchased his first horse, Stay Awake, success was not guaranteed when he spent 120,000 euros on this dashing grey, named in honour of Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, and sired by the highly-regarded Mastercraftsman.
“I didn’t buy the horse with any great hopes,” explained Gillespie. “It is a lot of money, but the way things are going, one horse from the same breeder went at the same breeze-up sale this year for 750,000 euros. I think I got a good deal!
“I enjoy racing, I have been an owner off and on for 30 years, and always used to go to the big meetings at Cheltenham, Chester and York. Now The Grey Gatsby has taken me to France, Ireland, Dubai and now back to Ireland. We’re living the dream.
“He’s a very laid back horse and he takes everything in his stride. Nothing fazes him. He won the Dante and French Derby, and I thought he ran a very good race behind Australia in the Juddmonte back at York last August. But the Irish Champion Stakes was something else. He was 15 lengths off the pace with four furlongs to go, I thought we had no chance, but he pulled it out and won by a short-head. It was definitely the highlight.
“He was entered at Ascot on Champions Day but the ground was too soft and Kevin didn’t want to take a chance. He’s so knowledgeable with the horses and his daughter, Amy, rides The Grey Gatsby at home – they’re a great team.”
After dropping back in trip to one mile and a furlong in Dubai, Ryan is hopeful tomorrow’s extra furlong on a galloping track will play to the strengths of his stable star who is also the reigning Yorkshire horse of the year.
“We didn’t go to Dubai all guns blazing and he hadn’t come in his coat,” explained the trainer. “Coming back in trip wasn’t going to be ideal on a sharp track, but the horse took no harm. The 10 days out there did him good. It helped his coat to progress and he enjoyed it. We have him in good shape and we’ve left a bit on him to go to Ascot. The Curragh will suit him...hopefully he’ll get some pace in the race.”
As for Gillespie who lives near Knutsford, he now has 10 horses in training – six with Ryan and four with Nawton-based David O’Meara. They’re all special to him and he is a regular presence on Yorkshire’s racetracks.
However, his pride is self-evident when he lists the mouth-watering targets for The Grey Gatsby after tomorrow’s test – the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, Sandown’s Coral-Eclipse, the Juddmonte International, the Irish Champion Stakes and a possible tilt at the blue riband Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. “He’s probably the best Flat horse that’s ever been in Yorkshire,” said Gillespie.
It’s a bold claim, but the statistics might just back him up at the end of this season.