William Buick came of age with a copy-book victory on Arctic Cosmos in the Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster as a nationwide gamble on Rewilding bit the dust.
The 22-year-old had already made his mark in his first season as stable jockey to Newmarket trainer John Gosden, with major wins abroad on Dar Re Mi in the Dubai Sheema Classic and Debussy in the Arlington Million.
But there is nothing better than winning a British Classic. Frankie Dettori may be the public’s favourite, but the Italian was out with the washing on hot favourite Rewilding, with the writing on the wall some way from home.
Buick, having his first ride in the Leger, has racing blood flowing through his veins thanks to his father Walter, who was eight-times champion jockey in Scandinavia.
The 12-1 shot was unconsidered by the majority of racegoers, mainly as he had beaten in his prep race at Goodwood, but there was no fluke about the result.
Arctic Cosmos, suited by wearing blinkers in public for the first time, was covered up in midfield as Corsica set the pace for Rewilding.
Buick resisted all temptation to go for broke in the long straight and waited patiently before unleashing his challenge two furlongs from home.
Hitting the front a furlong out, the willing Arctic Cosmos was kept up to his work to hold Irish raider Midas Touch by a length and three-quarters.
The gallant Corsica was just a nose back in third for Mark Johnston, with the heavily-backed Rewilding only sixth.
“It’s been unbelievable and this is the one we needed. We’ve had a really good first season and I’m really enjoying it,” said Buick.
“We rode Goodwood like a trial. It wasn’t the be all and end all. He ran well and came out of it very well because he didn’t have a hard race.
“He gave me a lot of confidence today. He travelled really well with the blinkers on and the race panned out perfectly. It was very straightforward.
“I always knew I was going to hold on – unless Nijinsky came from behind!
“He has shown his true class, at home we did fancy him and he has proved us right.”
Gosden had nothing but praise for his jockey, saying: “William thought he was going so well he took a pull.
“He knows it’s a very long straight. I’ve seen jockeys go for it here all guns blazing a long way out and been gone at the furlong pole.
“The winning post can be a big old lollipop, but he took a pull. He took a pull with Dar Re Mi in the Sheema Classic. That’s clever.
“William is very mature for a young man. he’s very level headed, and he’s very good at keeping the PR stuff steady.
“We are living in a world of celebrity froth which can be very destructive for young athletes – footballers, boxers, jockeys etc.
“The Breeders’ Cup is still a possibility. William feels going back to a mile and a half won’t be a problem for him.”
Gosden was sampling Leger glory for a third time, but this one was extra special as Arctic Cosmos is part-owned by his wife, Rachel Hood.
“This horse was not some Galileo who cost a fortune. I got him at Tattersalls for 47,000 guineas and I didn’t have an owner,” he explained.
“I always buy one on spec every year and got him the day Raven’s Pass worked at Lingfield. Nobody wanted him so he ended up in Rachel’s Christmas stocking.
“We always believed in this horse. We’ve kept our patience and it’s arrived today.
“The ground was perfect for him. He didn’t want it soft, just good ground.”
Intriguingly, part-owner Robin Geffen has a burning desire to win a big prize of another sort in the future.
He said: “It’s my dream to win the Cheltenham Hurdle with this horse.
“He’s got lots to achieve on the Flat at first but I can see him powering up the Cheltenham hill.”
Rider Colm O’Donoghue had “no excuses” after Midas Touch’s fine effort for the Aidan O’Brien team, while Corsica’s jockey Joe Fanning said: “He’s run an absolute screamer, he travelled well and stayed on well.
“It’s as good a result as we could have expected.”
Ed Dunlop’s dual Oaks winner Snow Fairy moved powerfully before running out of steam, eventually taking fourth.
Dunlop said: “She travelled like the best horse in the race and really it was a great run from a non-stayer.
“We will take her home and have a think about it (whether to run again this season).”
Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said of Rewilding: “That was very disappointing.
“He wasn’t the same horse as at York – at York he travelled and stayed on, but for whatever reason he just didn’t today.
“He was in trouble a long way out and we didn’t see the real Rewilding today.
“He looked fine afterwards so we will just take a view.”
Dettori added: “I knew I was beaten at Rose Hill, I thought I would wait a while and give him a breather, then ask again in the straight.
“But he was on his knees, that was not his running.”