Gillespie’s agonising wait for victory verdict

Graham Lee (white with yellow cap) wins The Betfred supports Jack Berry House Stakes at York.
Graham Lee (white with yellow cap) wins The Betfred supports Jack Berry House Stakes at York.
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JUST one word sufficed from owner Frank Gillespie after The Grey Gatsby was confirmed as the winner of the Betfred Dante Stakes.

His roar of ‘yes’ echoed across Knavesmire after enduring 10 of the most agonising minutes of his 40-year association with horse racing.

They were minutes that will have felt like a lifetime.

As the klaxon sounded to signal the outcome of this celebrated race that honours Yorkshire’s last winner of the Derby, Gillespie’s face was ashen as the announcer said: “Here is the result of the stewards’ inquiry.”

There was then an agonising pause of several seconds, the deliberate delay adding to the tension, before he put The Grey Gatsby’s connections out of their misery and said: “The placings remain unaltered.”

Even though The Grey Gatsby, trained at Hambleton by Kevin Ryan, was wayward in the frantic final furlong, the interference appeared to be accidental.

Yet this did not help settle the nerves of Cheshire-based Gillespie, who works in the construction industry and who has horses in training with David O’Meara, Jonjo O’Neill and Ryan.

“That’s a relief,” he told The Yorkshire Post immediately after confirmation of the biggest win of his life.

“I can’t believe it. Kevin bought him from France and I didn’t think there was anything special about him. Within a couple of weeks, Kevin was on the phone and said this was a special horse.”

Gillespie, who hails from Donegal in Ireland, turned down several offers for The Grey Gatsby last year after the horse triumphed on his racecourse debut at York’s John Smith’s Cup meeting.

“People are talking about the Derby but I’ll leave that to Kevin. He’s in the French Derby,” added the owner.

As The Grey Gatsby returned to the winner’s enclosure under three-times champion jockey Ryan Moore, he was greeted by the trainer’s daughter Amy, who patted the horse.

The 2012 champion apprentice jockey, who suffered a horrendous fall at York last summer, rides The Grey Gatsby on the gallops at home and clearly has a special affinity with the three-year-old.

“From day one, you could tell he was good,” she said.

“Just his ability. You can feel it when you’re riding up the gallops.

“He is a character. He’s always biting me first thing in the morning.

“He’s cheeky. I’ll just have to get used to it. It means a lot for the yard to win a race like the Dante.”

This was a magnificent seventh winner at this year’s Dante meeting for Yorkshire-trained horses, exemplifying the White Rose county’s strength in depth when it comes to Flat racing.

For the second day running, former Grand National-winning jockey Graham Lee won the opener as Monsieur Joe flashed home to claim the Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Stakes for proud Yorkshireman Paul Midgley.

The seven-year-old has been a smart sprinter for a number of seasons for Robert Cowell and switched hands at the end of last season for 48,000 guineas.

Having run some good races in Dubai before running down the field at Lingfield, Monsieur Joe was a 25-1 shot and was produced late by Bedale-based Lee.

Midgley, who trains at Westow, said: “Ask any trainer in Yorkshire and they love having winners at York. I don’t think we’ve had one for two or three years.

“I wondered whether he was still capable of winning a race like this at his age, but he’s answered the question. Graham gave him a peach of a ride.

“He’ll go for the Dash at Epsom now. Before this I would have said Epsom wouldn’t have suited him, but it’s a pretty sharp five furlongs here. He wants a good gallop and you need the gaps to come. The gaps came beautifully for him and I’m absolutely chuffed.”

The main supporting race was the Middleton Stakes, with victory going to last year’s runner-up Ambivalent.

Roger Varian’s temperamental mare had to be ponied to the start, but made the running.

Varian said: “She’s a real personality, but she has a very big heart. She’s a Group One winner, so we’ll look to step her back up to Group One level now. She will probably have an international campaign in the autumn.”

A slightly disappointing third in the Dante on True Story, who will clearly benefit from a longer trip in the Epsom Derby, Kieren Fallon landed the Hambleton Stakes after producing a swashbuckling ride aboard course specialist Navajo Chief.

It could be one of the last winners to be trained by Buckinghamshire-based Alan Jarvis, who is set to lose his licence after the British Horseracing Authority deemed him to be no longer being a fit and proper person due to a debt owed to Doncaster Bloodstock Sales.

Jarvis said: “He loves it here and it was a great ride. I’ve had all the best jockeys ride for me down the years, Lester Piggott and the likes, but Kieren is the best in the world.”

Meanwhile, Frankie Dettori refused to be upstaged by his great rival Fallon after partnering Shamshon to success for Richard Hannon.

Dettori’s delight was self-evident, but even racing’s great showman and optimist had to accept that this was Yorkshire’s day – again.