Big John Gosden spoke about his Investec Derby hopes at Newmarket before jetting off for a quick trip to America for his daughter Serena’s marriage last week.
Gosden said: “Through the 1990s, we had a lot of horses placed in the Derby, second, two thirds, fourth and then we did finally win the Classic (Benny The Dip 1997).”
“The thing about the Derby is that you need a particular type of horse – one with great balance and agility, a lot of tactical speed and who also stays.”
“Quite a lot of the horses I had at the time were not capable of doing that over a mile and a half around Epsom but last year up came a horse (Golden Horn) who was bred to be a miler and might have run in the 2000 Guineas if he hadn’t pulled a muscle on August 23 and he only ran once as a two-year-old. If he hadn’t, he would probably have gone to the Dewhurst, Guineas and then the St James’ Palace Stakes and would never have been considered for the Derby – so you never know.”
“But you do need speed – you cannot just slog around with one that stays well.”
“Wings Of Desire came in as a little round ball and then he just started growing. And he just grew, grew and grew. He only cantered and Pivotal is not known as a ready sire of two-year-olds, though he is a very good stallion. He is from a staying family and his brother (Eagle Top) did not run at two either.”
“So I thought, right, we will take him out of the Derby on March 7 and go straight for the King Edward VII (at Royal Ascot). I think that is still a very good idea but alas I have been made a fool of.”
“He did his first half-speed (work) on March 15. Once he ran well here (when third at Newmarket on his April 13 debut) and Robert Havlin got off and said Wings Of Desire suddenly clicked coming out of the dip, and then he went to sleep again as he is very relaxed. So I thought Wolverhampton 10 days later, which was pretty eccentric, but I wanted him to go a mile and half, break his maiden and learn something.”
“He did learn and then came on in leaps and bounds to the Dante Stakes.
Things have happened quickly and I feel that Wolverhampton is a good course for horses to learn about going around bends, like Chester.”
“He worked very well the other day and that is when we decided to go for the Dante. Frankie did not hit the front too soon as Wings Of Desire is still a baby. He is a proper Derby horse – you just would have loved to get another run into him. He is a big, strong, strapping colt now and last year he wasn’t.”
“Wings Of Desire is a lovely horse but is extraordinarily laid-back. He does not really bother about anything and his favourite habits are eating and sleeping. He looks great and has taken everything in his stride. He did a lot of steady preparation during the winter and is learning quick. Tamure was second in the Derby (1995) after never racing at two. Presenting (third) should have won that Derby but Mr Cash Asmussen would not listen to me. Lammtarra came late and had not run as a three-year-old. I told Cash, go to the front, make the running, go for it – he stays, he is a galloper but Cash just popped him in and could not get out until too late – typical Asmussen.”
“We will go to the Breakfast With The Stars morning at Epsom (Tuesday, May 24) and I have already got the work instructions from the trainer Frankie Dettori! We will take him there and it is very exciting. I will let you know then whether he acts on the course. If he gets on the wrong lead and does a Lyphard and ends up in the fairground then we are in trouble!”
“The conservative thing to do now is to go for the King Edward VII and, if he had finished third in the Dante, that is probably what we would have done. But if you win the Dante, you go to the Derby and the owners are very clear about what they want.”
“The great news is that he has earnt the £75,000 (supplementary fee to enter him in the Investec Derby again) so we are just giving it back again.”
“Last year, we had to go (with Golden Horn) but the owner, understanding his horse’s pedigree, was resistant until the pressure from the media meant he had no choice. He went ahead and it worked out brilliantly. Though he still does not believe Golden Horn was a mile and a half horse, and he is probably right – a mile and a quarter horse.”
“Wings Of Desire is every inch a mile and a half horse and it will be his best trip. I won’t both bringing him back to a mile and a quarter. If things go well at Epsom, we will probably put him away for the King George. He is a proper mile and a half horse like his brother (Eagle Top). He is a more masculine person that his brother.”
“Frankie (Dettori) and I are great old friends and he said to me many years ago we have not got a horse for this race, we have to invent one!”
“He will be devastated that So Mi Dar is not running in the Investec Oaks because of an injury but will understand we have got to do what is right for the horse.”
“He is a great friend – a great pro – he is a huge asset to come in and ride work. He really understands horses and is pretty good at race planning too and tells me straightaway where to run. I say, hang on, I have an opinion too.”
“He is happy and will always be the little Italian boy – he loves the family atmosphere if that makes any sense.”
Gosden has other Investec Derby entries including Godolphin’s Linguistic, a short-head second in Chester’s Dee Stakes, and Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s Foundation.
Postponed will be very hard to beat in the Coronation Cup at Epsom on Saturday.
Order Of St George will start a warm favourite at Royal Ascot for the Gold Cup on June 16 (2/1 from 9/4) with most of the high street bookmakers.
Yours In Sport!