Report by J A McGRATH
Anthony Oppenheimer fulfilled his lifetime ambition in racing when his homebred Golden Horn won the G1 Investec Derby at Epsom in 2015. It was a day he will never forget and one which he still regards as bordering on surreal.
“The experience was beyond belief,” he said while watching a group of foals galloping around one of the paddocks on his Hascombe Stud, near Cheveley, just outside Newmarket.
“It was so exciting. It was something I had dreamt about my entire life. But it wasn’t just that he had won the Derby - Golden Horn is a very special horse.
“He is the best-looking horse in England, I don’t think anyone would question that...he’s probably the best-looking in Europe,” he declared.
This is not an idle boast from a long-standing owner/breeder, more an expression of pride in being associated with a strikingly handsome colt, who kept surprising his owner, his trainer, and those who rode him, until the final months of his racing career.
When Golden Horn failed to teach his reserve in the sales ring as a yearling, trainers were at the owner’s side in a flash, asking if they could train the colt by Cape Cross out of Fleche D’Or, by Dubai Destination. John Gosden won out.
Oppenheimer has always enjoyed cordial relations with his trainer - “I don’t think we have disagreed on anything” — but it was the owner’s involvement with jockey Frankie Dettori that may have changed the course of events for Golden Horn.
“Gosden was training Golden Horn for the G1 2,000 Guineas, but we had a bit of luck. Around the same time, Dettori joined the stable,” the owner recalled.
“Dettori got off Golden Horn after riding him one day and said: ‘This colt is very immature. You may win the 2,000 Guineas with him, but if you do, you may lose the horse. I strongly advise you to miss the Guineas and go for the nine-furlong race (the Feilden Stakes) instead.’ And we took his advice.”
After that, the G2 Dante Stakes at York proved the perfect prep for Epsom, then on to the G1 Eclipse, and a spectacularly successful three-year-old career came to a close with an outstanding win in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Now, the next chapter is being written, with Golden Horn having produced two attractive crops of foals, with his first yearlings now going through the sales ring. And the proud owner can hardly wait for his own contingent to race.
“Golden Horn grew into such a beautiful horse, but he also has great intelligence. He was always interested in everything that took place on the stud. He loved racing, as well.
“He has been very much stamping his stock, which is very encouraging...and they are all bays, with the exception of one grey. Like Sadler’s Wells and Cape Cross. I think some will win as two-year-olds, but I think he will be a really good three-year-old stallion,” he pointed out.
Oppenheimer sent five of his own mares to Golden Horn - now the appearance of the others on the racecourse is keenly anticipated.
“I’m so excited about the ones I’ve got. They are big, strong, beautiful animals. Would I sell? It would be mad to start selling them when I have waited all my life to have a Derby winner...and these are his sons and daughters,” he said.
What better recommendation from a passionate owner/breeder, who is still living the dream.