Baldrick plan pays off for money machine Gosden as Muntahaa romps to glory
In no English county do they know the value of a pound more than Yorkshire. Over the four days of Yorkshire's greatest race meeting there has been no man better at winning pounds than John Gosden, who sealed a wonderful week by supplying Muntahaa and Weekender to finish first and second in the most valuable Flat handicap ever staged in Britain.
On Wednesday Gosden captured York's most richly-endowed prize when Roaring Lion claimed the Juddmonte International. On Friday he watched Stradivarius land a £1 million bonus and on the Knavesmire's final August afternoon he sent his seasonal total soaring past the £5 million mark with a victory that owed much to his own ingenuity.
For it was the runaway trainers' championship leader who decided that from the widest stall but one Jim Crowley should plot his own course through the opening half mile of a Sky Bet Ebor he had long since circled as an ideal target for Hamdan Al Maktoum's five-year-old.
All Gosden's plotting paid off, with the well-backed Muntahaa defying a mark of 109 to surge past his 112-rated Frankie Dettori-ridden stable companion at the end of a £500,000 feature that underlined the new-look Ebor is now a race in which quality counts.
Next year that race will double in value to £1m, but before that Muntahaa could seek to earn his connections more than £2m if Sheikh Hamdan agrees with the suggestion to contest the Lexus Melbourne Cup, the nation-stopping showpiece York one day hopes the Ebor might emulate.
Yet what York already has is quite special, as was made clear by Gosden, whose four winners at the meeting also leading William Hill St Leger candidate Lah Ti Dar.
"These are two fabulous horses and we trained them specifically for this race," said Gosden. "I told the jocks beforehand I had never had them better. They ran super races and it wasn't a fluke.
"We've had a great week. We didn't bring many here but you don't mess around at York. It's a proper track and the most fantastic meeting."
Undeniably fantastic was the cunning plan devised earlier in the week by Muntahaa's master trainer.
Revealing that plan was created during a walk of the Ebor course, he said: "I stood where the gates would be and from our stall I thought we could run four furlongs straight, be on our own and have our own race.
"I told Jim I had this Baldrick plan and that it might be a bit mad but I told him to stay out there on his own and then slot across.
"It worked perfectly. It was rather like he dropped in at the mile-and-a-quarter start. I think it made a big difference to the horse – but Frankie wasn't pleased as he went past him! It wasn't a wild idea in the end, it was a good one.
"From that draw it can be tough, but we did this in the Arc with a horse called Golden Horn. Sometimes you can use a negative and make it a positive."
For Crowley this was also a success that turned bad into good. He went home deflated on Friday after finishing only fourth for his boss on odds-on Nunthorpe favourite Battaash. Sporting the same silks, the outcome on this occasion was much more favourable.
"I was always confident," he said. "My only concern was not to get there too soon. He did pull up on me one day before, but this time when he hit the front he was gone.
"Some days it goes your way, some days it doesn't. That was a nice pick-me-up after yesterday. We needed that."
So, too, did Muntahaa. The five-year-old had not won since April 2017 and was at one point entered for a sale at Doncaster. He most definitely now won't be sold and, according to the winning owner's racing manager Angus Gold, might be given a rather more exciting entry, this time for an even more iconic handicap at Flemington on November's first Tuesday. Sky Bet make him a 25-1 shot to win it.
"I'm sure Angus will discuss it with Sheikh Hamdan and put him in the Melbourne Cup," said Gosden. "He's a big horse and may well fit the race."
He certainly fitted this one – and according to Gold its extra money mattered, even to a Maktoum family operation.
"Of course it does," said Gold. "It would make a difference to anyone. It's a fantastic race to win and it's incredible they have made it so valuable. We haven't had any horse win that much this year, so it's a huge thrill."
A huge thrill and a huge pot. At York this week Gosden kept winning them.
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