Gosden gets on the Mill Reef honours board as Kessaar powers through the mud
John Gosden has achieved most things in his fine career, but winning the Mill Reef Stakes was not one of them until Kessaar powered clear to capture the race that remembers the Balding family's legendary Derby and Arc champion.
In landing the Dubai Duty Free-sponsored Group 2 at Newbury on Saturday, worth £75,000, Kessaar earned himself a crack at the highest level after coming clear of True Mason under Frankie Dettori, who was winning the race for the third time.
He did not treat the crowd to a flying dismount, but Gosden had few complaints about his world-famous rider.
"The jockey came out and could see all this rain, so I said, 'Frankie, please, make an effort, everyone is here'. And I thought he rode a lovely race," the Newmarket trainer joked.
"The horse handled the soft ground, which we were worried about, and he did it well."
Well-beaten in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot, Kessaar bolted up at Windsor in July, but lost his rhythm against Ripon's ridges in the Champion Two Yrs Old Trophy.
He got back on track on the all-weather in the Sirenia Stakes at Kempton two weeks ago and part-owner Khalid Al-Mudhaf is eyeing the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud next month.
He shares the 100-30 winner with Mohammed Al-Qatami and said: "Hopefully we'll go to France and we won't mind at all if it rains – we'll be doing a rain dance. We're very privileged to have John as our trainer."
Gosden, who mentioned the Group 2 Gran Criterium in Italy as a possibility, is similarly grateful to have the connections in the yard.
He added: "It's my first Mill Reef and Khalid led me here. He wanted to go to Ripon when I wanted to go for the nursery at York. We managed to agree on the Sirenia and he told me we'd come here – I'm very easily led by him."
Two and three-quarter lengths off Kessaar was True Mason, whose trainer Karl Burke was down, but not deflated.
"We're gutted we got beaten," said Burke. "He's a high-class colt who loves that ground and just got outstayed by a better stayer on the day.
"He cruised up there and Ben [Curtis] thought it was a matter of how far. So did I. But he just couldn't get away from the other horse and in the last 100 yards he was going away from us."
Burke added: "I was going to go for the Middle Park with him but I think it will be the same story and he will get outstayed. Maybe the Cornwallis Stakes looks the ideal race for him now."
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