The Big Read: Robert Havlin enjoying life as key cog in John Gosden juggernaut

Thu 30 Aug 2018

Behind every great trainer is a supporting cast of equal importance and in the case of John Gosden, few have played a more significant role in helping him achieving such success than Robert Havlin.

Loyalty in racing can be hard to find, but in Havlin, the Newmarket handler has an accomplished rider that has served alongside him for 18 years, and also an ally that is worth his weight in gold in helping to develop budding equine stars.

Havlin said: “I’m privileged to be in the position I am in.

“When you work for someone for so long, you know exactly how to ride them and I know exactly what he wants and what he doesn’t want. It works so smoothly, the whole operation.

Robert Havlin with John Gosden at Newmarket's Craven meeting
Robert Havlin with John Gosden at Newmarket's Craven meeting

“It’s the best feeling when you get on a horse that has maybe been on the back-burner and suddenly blossoms and does that one special piece of work.

“That makes it all pretty special, when you get that first feeling that this could be a Group One horse. Luckily enough that has happened lots of times during the years.

“Kingman was always a personal favourite. I used to ride him all the time and he was just a pleasure to work with. That turn of foot was exceptional.

I like to think that I take them to nursery and Frankie takes them to college! Robert Havlin

“I’ve sat on so many good horses, like Enable, Cracksman and Oasis Dream – you could not nail your colours to one as they are all special.”

Being part of one Flat racing’s most lauded institutions for so long has not only allowed the 44-year-old Scot the chance to sit on some of the best horses of recent years, but to have built up close relationships with both Gosden and stable jockey Frankie Dettori.

He added: “John was a fantastic mentor in my younger days and he would take me to the side explaining things. He cares about you, both on the track and off it.

“He takes a keen interest and although you might not always agree with things, he has the best interests at heart in the end.

Coronet and Frankie Dettori (left) battle it out with Cunco and Robert Havlin (centre) at Newmarket
Coronet and Frankie Dettori (left) battle it out with Cunco and Robert Havlin (centre) at Newmarket

“There have been quiet times, but I’ve always worked hard and been a hard grafter and he appreciates that. Hopefully I will end my riding days at Clarehaven.

“Me and Frankie are good friends and near enough best mates. We speak each day on the phone and we talk every day about the horses. I like to think that I take them to nursery and Frankie takes them to college!”

For Havlin, the position he finds himself in now is in stark contrast to the one he was in 12 months ago, when nearing the completion of a six-month ban imposed on him by the French racing authorities for failing a drugs test, something he vehemently denied and fought vigorously.

I’m sure he can silence his doubters Robert Havlin on Cracksman

He said: “It was a tough time, but the boss said to me early on just work away as we are all behind you.

“I did have bad days and the boss was there to cheer me up, while his wife Rachel (Hood) gave me great support and really helped me, and the lads in the yard were also there to help cheer me up.

“It did feel like you were banging your head against the wall with appeal after appeal, but I just had to get back up and brush it all off.”

He added: “It was great to have my first ride back on Purser at Lingfield in October as a winner. It was quite nicely orchestrated and it was good of Frankie to step aside and get back to business as usual.”

In a campaign which has seen him celebrate the first four-timer of his career, along with riding in the Investec Derby for the first time, the Red Lodge-based pilot remains on course to celebrate another milestone by claiming his first century of winners in a calendar year.

He said: “A couple of times I’ve got close, but hopefully I will get there this time and the horses will keep running well.

“It has been a long road and I’ve been a slow-burner. I think family life has settled me down and made me more focused.

“It would definitely be a nice milestone to reach and to be able to say I have done it once when I retire. I’ve just got to keep my head down and keep kicking on and stay injury free.”

Brilliant Champion Stakes winner Cracksman is just one of the horses Robert Havlin has worked closely with
Brilliant Champion Stakes winner Cracksman is just one of the horses Robert Havlin has worked closely with

Although Havlin has yet to ride a Group One winner on the track, he has partnered plenty on the gallops and while the latest on that list, last year’s Champion Stakes winner Cracksman, has questions to answer, he is optimistic the son of Frankel can return to his best before the season is out.

He said: “Cracksman is bouncing and seems to be happy in himself. He had some hard races at the start of the year and he has finished behind a King George winner (Poet’s Word, in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes).

“I know visually he has not looked the best, but he has still got the job done.

“His best work and best runs last year came at the back end and he seems to be back to his old self. Once we get him on some soft ground, I’m sure he can silence his doubters.”

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