Gatsby seeks his Jay in Juddmonte sun

Gatsby seeks his Jay in Juddmonte sun

Ridden by Graham Lee, The Grey Gatsby wins the John Smith’s Median Auction Stakes at York last summer. Now the Juddmonte International is the prize target. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Trainer Kevin Ryan, left, congratulates Astaire and Neil Callan after their win in the Gimcrack Stakes at last year’s Yorkshire Ebor Festival. Picture: John Giles/PA Wire

First published in Sport
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York Press: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

IT could be millionaires’ row.

A line of boxes that looks set apart from the others at Kevin Ryan’s Sutton Bank yard.

That may be because they face the front of the trainer’s house - allowing him to keep a watchful eye on these precious charges from his doorstep.

Then you catch the name plates as you walk by each box in turn - Astaire, York Glory, Hamza, Blaine and, the focal point of them all, The Grey Gatsby.

That’s when you realise you are stepping round the Ryan equivalent of Mayfair.

It’s no surprise the Irishman has his stable stars under such close surveillance day in and day out.

From this Hambleton yard, Ryan and The Grey Gatsby will attempt to do something no Yorkshire-based trainer has ever managed before - to win the Juddmonte International Stakes.

The jewel of York Racecourse’s Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival, next week’s £800,000 showpiece is a who’s who of top-class middle-distance runners.

Australia, the wonderful Epsom Derby winner, Telescope, who came so close to Group 1 glory at Glorious Goodwood last month, the multiple Group winner Noble Mission - all are shaping up to compete in what could be a thoroughbred battle for the ages.

The Grey Gatsby is not out of place.

He may have surprised a few pundits when defeating Arod by three-quarters of a length in the Dante Stakes in May but his trainer was not one of them.

And when the fabulously-named colt, a pun on the 1925 novel by F Scott Fitzgerald, swept to the Prix du Jockey Club in Chantilly shortly afterwards, he only rubber-stamped his growing reputation as one of the world’s best.

Now he will get the chance to show it again on home turf.

“He’s a hugely talented horse and getting him to York in good shape is the important thing. We are very happy with how we have him now,” Ryan said.

That contentment grew from the first time The Grey Gatsby participated in a serious piece of work. Bought as a two-year-old in France for owner Frank Gillespie, he was a horse everyone liked from the outset.

Ryan added: “From day one we knew he was well above average. The more he kept doing the more he kept improving and he was a very immature horse last year.

“So what he was doing at two was always going to be a bonus.”

That included winning on his racecourse debut at York and then filling the podium places in the Acomb Stakes at York and the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.

He was second again on his debut at three - in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket - and arrived back on Knavesmire for the Dante as a relatively unheralded 9-1 shot in the field of six.

“I just felt the step up to a mile and a quarter was going to bring out the improvement he needed to win at Group level,” he said. “He ran a great race in the 2,000 Guineas (finishing tenth) over a mile.

“At the same time I felt he needed an extra couple of furlongs to see his proper ability. As soon as we ran him in the Dante, he showed that he stayed ten furlongs well. You could really ride a race on him. You didn’t have to put a gun to his head straight from the gates.

“That’s what has made the horse.”

Dante victors have traditionally gone on to Epsom - to try their luck over the undulating mile-and-a-half torment of the Derby - but Ryan was always swerving that. Instead he looked to France and the Prix du Jockey Club.

He won at a canter, quickening past Shamkiyr to a three-length success.

“It was an easy decision to make,” Ryan explained. “Ryan Moore straight away said it should be the French Derby. He rode the horse in the Dante and you have to go with his advice.

“It wasn’t just that he won the Prix du Jockey Club. It was the way he won it - with a hands and heels ride. Ryan didn’t have to give him a smack and it was great for the yard and everyone involved.

“All the lads and lasses out there, all our other owners - they all know Frank - and they were delighted for me and him and everyone involved.”

Those cheers would grow even louder should Ryan break Yorkshire’s 42-year duck in the Juddmonte International come Wednesday. One thing is for sure, he will have the horse ready.

“It’s going to be a very exciting race, which it deserves to be,” he said. “It is going to be a tough race. We are hopeful of a big run. He’s trained here and the Yorkshire people are very enthusiastic about their racing. I suppose to have a horse like him trained on their own doorstep is why he is getting such a following.

“We’ve got some really nice horses going to York and it is a great meeting to have runners at. You take your best team of horses there and, hopefully, try to get a winner or two.”

* The Juddmonte International is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series. York’s Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival features four QIPCO British Champions Series races. For more informational log on to  www.britishchampionsseries.com

 

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