When John Gosden looks back at the decisions he made during the 2020 Flat season, few will give him greater satisfaction than giving Lord North the chance to run in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
While the majority of the seven-runner field will have had the Group One prize on the agenda for weeks – and even months – in advance, the participation of the four-year-old was still up in the air just hours before the declarations were finalised on Sunday morning.
But one of the many reasons why Gosden is champion trainer is knowing where best to place his horses, something Lord North demonstrated with a decisive three-and-three-quarter-length victory in the Group One feature – the first leg of a famous double for James Doyle.
Gosden said of the 5-1 winner: “He has got better and better. He is a powerful horse and for a gelding he has got a great body to him.
“I was looking at the race and I was talking to Peter Shoemark, our racing office manager, and said ‘this race is winnable for this horse’ so at five to ten we put him in. It was very late.
“I was playing between this and the Listed with a penalty (Wolferton) as you want winners at Royal Ascot, but I looked at the race and said ‘no, let’s go for this’.”
It may have been Doyle who took the plaudits for steering the Dubawi gelding to the biggest victory of his career, but Gosden was quick to praise the efforts of Robert Havlin for his work both behind the scenes and on the track in helping him reach such a lofty position.
Gosden said: “Rab Havlin told him that was the way to ride him as he has ridden him in all his work and he won on him at Haydock (Brigadier Gerard Stakes).
“James is the retained jockey for the owners though and he did the job well. He has come from last and has ridden him very cool. Rab though has done everything with him.”
A career at stud after racing may no longer be an option for Lord North, but Gosden believes a major reason behind the rapid progression of last year’s Cambridgeshire winner is down to being gelded last June.
He said: “This horse became so aggressive at the gate he became a danger to himself let alone others so we took our time with him.
“He was gelded as he needed to be as he was tormenting himself as testosterone is the most dangerous drug in the world.
“He is a lovely horse to be around now, a lovely character.”
A good afternoon turned into a fantastic one for Doyle as he carried the silks of the Queen to glory aboard the Andrew Balding-trained Tactical in the Windsor Castle Stakes – a victory that not only turned a dream into reality but was slightly one of redemption, at least in the rider’s eyes.
Doyle said: “I finished second on Magnetic Charm last year (in the Sandringham for the Queen) and I was absolutely gutted. I could have done things slightly different so to get it right today it does mean a lot.
“I’ve been lucky enough to meet Her Majesty at the gallops at Beckhampton and I’ve been lucky enough to ride quite a few winners for her now. To get her a Royal Ascot winner means everything.”
While bigger and better prizes will continue to be won by Doyle throughout the remainder of his career, his latest Listed-race success is one that will always take high rank among his list of achievements.
He said: “I’ve been lucky in the last few years to get on some nice horses like Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word. I’m lucky with the position in a sense so I’m taking advantage of it which is nice.
“It is just a huge honour. It is not one of the flagship races here, but it is the connections involved. It is just great.
“I was here the day Estimate won (Gold Cup in 2013), it was an amazing reaction, we don’t have that here today unfortunately, but I hope Her Majesty enjoyed watching it.”
John Warren, the Queen’s bloodstock adviser, said after the heavily-backed 7-2 favourite had obliged: “It is obviously a great shame that Her Majesty is not at Royal Ascot to enjoy the buzz of a winner. She has studied every bit of it today watching the races.
“The last two days she has been able to spend a little bit of time watching the big races.
“This was the icing on the cake to have a winner for Her Majesty – it is tremendous.”
Earlier on the card, First Receiver was a creditable second in the Hampton Court Stakes for the Queen, and Warren was pleased with the performance of the Sir Michael Stoute-trained three-year-old.
He added: “First Receiver ran a lovely race and has a very nice future ahead of him.”