Royal Line capped John Gosden’s remarkable season with a record sixth victory for the trainer in Doncaster’s November Handicap.
Gosden’s Group One exploits home and abroad with superstars such as Enable and Cracksman have been a high-profile theme throughout the summer.
It was therefore a highly appropriate culmination in the Marathonbet-sponsored November Handicap, on the final day of the turf campaign, that Royal Line put behind him his eclipse as favourite 12 months ago.
He scooted clear at 9-1 this time under Robert Havlin to beat Hughie Morrison’s 33-1 shot Not So Sleepy and Ian Williams’ Reshoun by one and a half lengths and a head. Birds Of Prey was a neck further back in fourth, ridden by Megan Nicholls for her father, Paul.
Gosden, who had failed to add to his record-equalling fifth November Handicap success for the past six years, took the family tally to nine – adding to his father Towser’s three winners.
He has also put himself one ahead of Sam Hall, whose five wins came in the days when the race was known as the Manchester November Handicap and run on the other side of the Pennines.
From the moment Havlin and Royal Line headed Birds Of Prey two furlongs out, it was clear the four-year-old was a class apart in this traditionally ultra-competitive mile-and-a-half event.
In Gosden’s absence, Havlin was happy to pay tribute to the master trainer’s skills.
He said: “We’ve seen how he can turn horses out after a long lay-off – then we saw Enable again (at the Breeders’ Cup) last week.”
Royal Line had run only twice since finishing seventh at his first attempt in this race.
“He was rated 96, but he was a three-year-old and this race doesn’t have good stats for three-year-olds,” added Havlin.
“We did fancy him (then), but he was a lot busier last year.
“He’s won it off 105 today, and I hope we can keep him for next year.
“He’s the type you’d like to keep around the place.”
Havlin had plenty in hand, even though Royal Line was giving up to a stone to all but two of his rivals.
“He’s won his last few gallops at home, so we came here hopeful,” he said.
“I didn’t really have a plan. I thought if he jumps slow, I’ll slot in.
“I had to keep letting him go forward, and eventually found a spot one off the fence.
“But then I felt as if I got there a mile too soon – because when they opened up at the three (furlong pole), he just took me in there.
“He really loves soft ground, and he quickened up like a smart horse there.”