LIKE the cricketer he is named after, the racehorse Jack Hobbs is only now getting into his stride as he becomes stronger with age.
This was self-evident when John Gosden’s stayer won first prize of £2.9m in the Dubai Sheema Classic – a victory which suggested he could dominate Britain’s top middle-distance Flat races if he gets his favoured soft ground.
After all, Jack Hobbs chased home stablemate Golden Horn in both the 2015 Dante Stakes and Epsom Derby before winning the Irish Derby in his own right.
Yet Gosden, and Buick, have always maintained that this late-developing horse would not be seen at his optimium until he turned five.
So it proved – trainer and jockey replicating the success they enjoyed with Dar Re Mi in the corresponding race in 2009 when Buick, a former Northern Racing College graduate, announced himself as a world-class rider.
King George hero Highland Reel set out to make all, as is his wont, but Buick was keen not to let Ryan Moore enjoy a soft lead.
While everyone else was riding for all their worth, Buick was sat motionless before pressing the button down the straight and shooting clear.
Seventh Heaven ran a big race for Aidan O’Brien, staying on stoutly for second to suggest she is likely to be a tough mare to beat this year, while Postponed, the winner 12 months ago, has not quite looked the force of old so far this season but still finished third.
Gosden said: “When Godolphin bought into him they wanted to run him in this race and I said ‘as a five-year-old, not at four’.
“We had a quiet year last year, but his form at Ascot was rock solid (in the Champion Stakes). It was interesting Ryan stayed off the rail for the better ground, but that meant it was wide open in the straight and William was cool, just like he was when Dar Re Mi won this – he didn’t go straight away.
“He’s a lovely horse. He’s got semi-blinkers on, they’re only little, but in the Champion Stakes he spent the whole time dreaming. We’d had him out at 5am trying to get used to the lights, first time he was taken aback but he’s got used to it.
“This is great, he’s a family horse – Sheikh Mohammed, Princess Haya, Rachel (Hood, Gosden’s wife) – it’s great.”
Looking to future plans, Gosden said: “With a horse like this, after they’ve run here you need to freshen them up and I would like to look at the Hardwicke Stakes at Ascot and then the King George, which are ideal races for him.”
A clearly elated Buick, now firmly established as Sheikh Mohammed’s retained rider, said: “Blinkers first-time and there’s a strong wind, so he was a little keen but he’s done it very well.
“He’s a classy horse, the blinkers probably have helped. John said earlier in the week he was in great shape and he was proven right. This night is horse racing’s Olympics, it’s very important, certainly when wearing the royal blue (of Godolphin), so I’m very happy.”
He continued: “With first-time blinkers the one thing I didn’t want him to do was over-race. He gave me a great feel throughout and was very impressive.”
Buick was earlier third on Richard Fahey’s Ribchester in the Dubai Turf, a race won by Japan’s Vivlos after Joao Moreira, the weighing room’s so-called ‘magic man’, inspired a withering late run down the outside.
Malton-based Fahey said: “I felt two down he was going to go and win and just whether he didn’t quite get home or got tired I don’t know. He was just a bit keen early on.”
In the same race, David O’Meara’s Mondialiste was 11th, beating two home. Earlier, Paul Midgley’s Final Venture, twice a winner at Meydan, performend with credit when finishing eighth in the Al Quoz Sprint.
However, the star of the show at Meydan Racecourse was Arrogate as the Breeders Cup hero overcame a slow break and unpromising position to power to Dubai World Cup glory for American trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith.
“I can’t believe we won that race. On the turn for home, from being last early on, he used that tremendous long stride and he gobbled up the ground,” said Smith.