Havlin celebrates long-awaited comeback with Lingfield victory
Robert Havlin made the perfect return from what John Gosden described as "eight months of Kafkaesque hell" when steering his boss's Group 3 fourth Purser to a runaway nine-length win in the 7f novice at Lingfield.
It was the 43-year-old's first ride since January, when he stood himself down on legal advice before the imposition on April 4 by French authorities of a six-month ban for a failed drugs test – a test the validity of which he has always disputed and one which has been vigorously contested ever since, with Gosden's public support.
Havlin, who calculates his absence has cost him well into six figures in missed winners and legal fees, has kept himself busy throughout on the gallops and in an assistant's role on the racecourse and one morning last week partnered Cracksman, Enable and Jack Hobbs on the gallops.
His relief was plain when his return to the racecourse was celebrated in the ideal manner.
He said: "I tried to tell myself there was no pressure today, but when I pulled up after the line I thought 'Thank God for that. Nothing went wrong'.
"You've never won until you are past the line, but it went well. Now I've got the first one out of the way it's hopefully onwards and upwards."
He added: "It was obviously a bit of a plan to get me back on a winner and nice of Frankie [Dettori] to step aside, although he didn't need much persuading to take another day off!
"I've been doing as much fitness work as I can do, with cycling, riding out, a rowing machine and an Equicizer, but there's nothing like the real thing, with the adrenalin going. It's been a long road, but we are back now."
Before he took the ride, Havlin said: "When I arrived there was plenty of handshaking, but otherwise it was like I'd never been away. I felt as if I had been here yesterday.
"It's been difficult staying positive, and there have been plenty of hard days and hard weeks, but with a family and two kids there's not much choice in the matter. You've got to stay positive.
"The boss has been a massive support and I can't thank him enough. I went straight to him as soon as I got the letter, and he has never had any doubts about me. He had been with me the night before I was supposed to have tested positive at Saint-Cloud, and he knew none of it added up."
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