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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Gosden reflects on a challenging track 29 years on from his Del Mar days

John Gosden and Frankie Dettori at Del Mar for the Breeders' Cup
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While most Europeans are breaking fresh ground at Del Mar this week the seaside track is a familiar stomping ground for John Gosden, who spent ten summers here before returning home to Britain in 1989.

With just one runner at this year's Breeders' Cup – Juliet Capulet in the Juvenile Fillies Turf – Gosden will not be troubling the leaderboard this weekend but he has experienced ample success at Del Mar, winning the trainers' title in 1985, and his knowledge of the tight, turning turf track is second-to-none among the travelling contingent.

"I was leading trainer here but I haven't been here since 1988, which is quite a long time," he said.

"It's a well-banked course but it's Bermuda grass with good grip and horses can accelerate off it. To that extent it suits horses with a lot of tactical speed – you need that around here, which is true of most tracks but very true of this one."

While a low gate is typically held up as particularly important here, Gosden said the draw bias was more pronounced over longer distances, particularly the mile of the Juveniles Fillies Turf.

"The great thing about a wide draw in a sprint is you can breeze down the outside and cut in on the turn," Gosden said. "We've never worried about a wide draw over one turn, it's when you need to go two turns and the first one hits you so fast, you don't have much run. A high draw sprinting you have the whole back straight, but over a mile you have a fraction of it and you hit the bend."

Frankie Dettori, who rides Juliet Capulet along with leading European contenders Ulysses, James Garfield and Queen's Trust, had his first experience of the turf track at Wednesday's meeting here, springing from stall ten of ten in a mile maiden and finishing fifth after turning into the straight second to last.

Dettori warned the draw would prove a considerable obstacle to overcome for those like Juliet Capulet (drawn 13) who are starting nearer the beach.

"Everything above [gate] seven I think will be very difficult," he said. "The straight is so short, it's just over a furlong, and it is very hard to make up the ground. It is much tighter than Santa Anita – I expected it to be tight but not this tight."

Tight turns on the turf at Del Mar

Gosden was also reflecting on a spectacular campaign in Europe, with Arc winner Enable and Champion Stakes winner Cracksman both gearing down for the winter ahead of their four-year-old campaigns.

"They were in great form when I left them," he said. "They need some downtime, as they had very busy seasons.

"They're only three turning four so they're still growing and strengthening. We'll do a great deal of trotting round the heath and then ease back into light canters from the middle of January.

"Enable is a huge frame of a filly and I think she'll get a lot stronger. She has a strong cruising speed and a great burst so there's no reason [they won't get better]. Cracksman has grown a lot this season, Enable likewise was always tall and has grown a bit, but he's shot up.

"They'll both hopefully have a date at Longchamp for the Arc if they're in good order in the autumn. I'm sure both owners very much want to go there for that. It's a long way off, but if they're in good form going to Longchamp next year that'll be the dream."

Jon Lees brings you all the news and colour from Del Mar on Friday, live on from 8pm






The straight is so short, it's just over a furlong, and it is very hard to make up the ground. I expected it to be tight but not this tight
E.W. Terms
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