RAB HAVLIN heads to Lingfield Park today to ride for John Gosden, the trainer who has stood by him throughout troubled times. It looks set up for the perfect comeback. Havlin takes the mount on Purser in the 2.25, a race as far removed from Enable’s victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Sunday as you could get.

Havlin, 43, rode the filly to win her maiden at Newcastle last November, one of his final winners before having to endure an eight-month riding suspension which he still believes was an injustice.

Having started as an 11-year-old from Saltcoats working weekends at Cree Lodge, the yard across the road from Ayr racecourse, Havlin has been back to the bottom rung of the ladder riding out three lots a day for Gosden, including much of the prep work on Enable, to bring in some money.

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That has also helped keep him fit along with a regime of cycling and gym work that has included a punchbag which, at times, has been as much about an exercise in anger management. “I cut the knuckles last week when the bandage slipped down,” he admitted, looking at his right hand.

Talking to Havlin it becomes readily apparent that he has not added to the world’s supply of self-pity. “When you put it into the context of Freddy Tylicki and Allan Mackay (both paralysed after falls) it’s just a blip in the road,” he said.

The long road started in December when France Galop, the regulator for racing across the Channel, informed Havlin that a urine test taken at Saint-Cloud racecourse in October had returned a positive for cocaine, morphine, oxazepam, temazepam and nordiazepam.

While there were legitimate medical grounds for the last two substances being present – Havlin had used a muscle relaxant for a back injury – he could not explain the others and, fearing contamination, requested for the B sample to be analysed.

France Galop only tested the B sample for cocaine, a failure in procedures which would have rendered the A sample void under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regulations, but racing is not governed by that code.

Havlin, who vehemently denies using cocaine, volunteered a hair test which confirmed that he could not have actively consumed cocaine.

After his initial hearing and two appeals with France Galop, Havlin turned to the French courts only to have his own evidence turned against him by France Galop and his original six-month ban was extended.

“They had ignored the hair test because they don’t have thresholds. But then, in the court case, they used the hair test to back up their evidence,” he said. “Time served is normally taken off the suspension.

But, for some reason, France Galop decided to interpret the rules differently and I ended up with the two months of medical suspension, while I was appealing the case, not taken into account.”

An appeal to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to have those extra two month struck out failed because the BHA’s independent panel ruled that they were legally bound to abide by original penalty. So the punchbag got another pounding.

Havlin has had to take the punches and still has one battle; to clear his name. “It’s cost me a fortune but I don’t regret that,” he said. “The court case is still ongoing – for defamation of character – but that could be a year and a half off. But I’m not giving up yet.”

It is a philosophy that has stood Havlin good stead.