As Golden Horse strode majestically down the camber at Epsom, eating up the ground on the classy Jack Hobbs – those who were fortunate to have a space in the packed grandstand knew they were witnessing something special.
Doubts were diminishing, pressure was being eased and a date with destiny (part two) was answered as Frankie Dettori saluted the crowd with Golden Horn lengthening a few lengths clear underneath him.
This was the crowning glory of the animal who had crept under the radar since his sole two-year-old start and with the horse racing fraternity searching for a superstar among the ranks, Golden Horn has done nothing but answer graciously.
His only visit to the track as a two-year-old ensured he created a rather understated impression that looks more and more impressive the more you revisit it. He was slow away, looked set to be outpaced over three-furlongs out before making smooth headway under pressure, to pick it up and gallop relentlessly to the line.
He was always keeping Storm the Stars at bay and eventually crossed the line a head to the good, with seven lengths back to the third. It was the type of performance that brought a ‘wow’ reaction without too much thought being given to the actual strength of the race.
Still, it was enough to ensure he returned to the track as a warm favourite, as he took his place in the Listed Fielden Stakes (9f) at Newmarket. Again, he was held up before making smooth headway through the race under new rider, Frankie Dettori, taking the lead when edging left in the final furlong before going on to a clever length and a half success.
At this stage it was evident a mile may not be sufficient and a step up in trip was likely to bring out even more improvement from the colt.
So, with the long-term plan being the French Derby, he was sent to York to contest the Dante Stakes over 10f. It was a race that many thought would be a mini-Derby, with many of the leading candidates turning up on the Knavesmire.
However with connections feeling Golden Horn was a real 10f horse, there were very few Epsom murmurs, until William Buick manoeuvred the colt out to track the leaders, swooped upside Jack Hobbs and then kicked on to win a shade cosily.
The manner in which he galloped past rivals with a hint of ease suggested he may well get further and the commotion after the event surrounded future decisions. Would Mr Oppenheimer opt to swerve Cahntilly for a crack at the prestigious Epsom Derby?
Trainer John Gosden was certainly vocal with his feelings but he left it completely to the owner and it mustn’t have taken too long for a decision to be made, as he was swiftly chartering a different course, heading straight at Epsom.
The tracing fraternity finally had a horse to latch onto, an improving, unbeaten colt who had done no wrong. Golden Horn.
Another major pull was the renaissance of popular rider Frankie Dettori, as the Italian fought back from the brink of obsuciroty to secure himself the top rides with the in-form John Gosden. With William Buick’s Godolphin links it was highly likely he would be needed elsewhere and in a bizarre twist of fate, the jockey’s switched horses as Godolphin purchased Dante runner-up and Derby second-favourite, Jack Hobbs.
This meant Buick got on-board Jack Hobbs while Dettori gleefully took the reins on Golden Horn as he bid for his second date with destiny up the famous Epsom camber.
He was settled towards the rear as the leaders went hell-for-leather up front and as he swung around Tattenham Corner, Dettori began to ease the colt through the pack, while stablemate Jack Hobbs got first run and took up the running.
He took a few strides to really hit top gear, but Golden Horn was merely teasing backers, and the flat spot was no more as he picked up the bit and galloped after his big, stocky, stablemate. Then came the sense of inevitability.
The nervous expression of backers suddenly changed to confidence, with “Go on Frankie!” bellowed from all parts of the racecourse. The horse at this stage had just loomed upsides and then gone past Jack Hobbs, delivering a crushing blow as he sauntered across his barn buddy before running on strongly up the rail to coast home an impressive winner.
He then reappeared in the Eclipse, bidding to join the greats such as Sea The Stars and Nashwan in the elite group of animals to do the Derby/Eclipse double and it was here he cemented himself as a top-class horse.
After the field understandably cut up with many swerving the chance to face a red hot Derby winner, Golden Horn faced four rivals, including the consistent horse from the Kevin Ryan stable, The Grey Gatsby.
It was a new scenario with a distinct lack of pace likely, so it came as no surprise to see Dettori bounce out and ease his charge to the front, where he could dictate the tempo. He set steady early fractions and wound it up in the straight, but there was a real worry for Golden Horn backers as The Grey Gatbsy loomed up large under a patient Jamie Spencer ride, eye-balling the favourite for good measure.
Dettori was urging the colt for more up the rail and as the grey beast next to him was urged for more, it appeared John Gosden’s colt was in for a battle. However he did what champions do, and dug deep to find reserves many questioned were there as he picked up the tempo to forge on for strong pressure.
The crowd responded with cheers and urgings of their own and as he careered away down the Sandown straight, finding his balance with ease to come home a shade cosily in the end, with some distance back to the third, belief had grown.
Golden Horn could be a member of the elite.
After looking as though the 3yo ranks were set for a disappointing return, it is nice to see we have a number of potential top-class animals to pad out the remainder of the year. Golden Horn looks a genuine good ground horse who wouldn’t want it on the soft side, yet he should have the chance to add to his ever growing reputation over the course of the season.
A trip to the King George for which his owner has plenty of sentimental attachment seemed the likely port of call, before a potential crack at the Juddmonte International at York. However rain-softened ground put paid to the former, so the Irish Champion Stakes, the Arc and potentially even the Breeders Cup are all logical options at present and it will be interesting to see which way the colt goes.
At present he looks to have plenty of talent and a whole host of opportunities ahead of him. Hopefully the ground will come good on the Knavesmire and he can put in a big performance for racing fans to latch onto.
Can Golden Horn prove himself as the Golden horse?