DAVID Griffiths is a man on a mission after recording the biggest – and most significant – win of his training career when Take Cover sprinted to victory in the Group Two Betfred King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
The Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes is the next target for seven-year-old Take Cover, who caught the eye when winning the John Smith’s City Wall Stakes last month at York.
However yesterday’s victory, under Andrea Atzeni, was even more impressive on two counts. First, the quality of opposition – the vanquished in a three-way driving finish included the runner-up Extortionist and the Harry Redknapp-owned and Bryan Smart-trained Moviesta, the 2013 victor, who was third after hanging badly.
Secondly, Griffiths is an unheralded trainer with just 22 horses in his care at his family-run stables near Bawtry in South Yorkshire. He’s also a remarkable individual. After a broken neck ending his riding career prematurely, he spent two years recuperating before working as a tipster with Leeds-based bookmakers William Hill and assisting Thirsk trainer David Barron.
He also worked as a jockey coach at Northern Racing College – William Buick is among those to hold Griffiths in high regard – and started training in 2010.
“I am delighted – unbelievable, unbelievable,” said Griffiths after Take Cover won the £56,000 winner’s prize by a neck.W
“We have always said that he was good and he is that quick that he just burns them off and just keeps going.
“It’s phenomenal to have a first Group winner,
“He likes York and, as long as we get him back and everything is fine, then hopefully we will hopefully go for the Nunthorpe. Andrew from Norcroft Park Stud (the owner) likes to give them a lot of time and the family have all improved with age. I think, arguably, he might be getting better. It sounds daft to say it at seven, but he might be.”
The winner has been cut from 20-1 to 12-1 for the Nunthorpe with William Hill spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke saying: “Take Cover has already won at York this season and now winning at Goodwood, he has underlined his claims for a crack at the Nunthorpe.”
Such confidence is shared by the aforementioned Atzeni whose career continues to blossom and who has already be seen to particularly good effect at York this year. He says Take Cover is the fastest horse that he has ever ridden.
“He has got plenty of speed and will be a top sprinter,” noted the Sardinian-born rider. “I don’t think that I have ever sat on anything as quick as him
“He likes the quick ground and battles well. The plan was to make the running but the other horses were going quite quick in front and took the lead. I hit the front at the two, but he is one of those horses that, once he gets his head in front, he is hard to get by.”
Meanwhile, Mark Johnston’s Heavy Metal lost the Betfred Mile by the shortest of short heads to Red Avenger whose jockey Jimmy Fortune received a heavy nine-day ban and £2,300 fine from the stewards for whip misuse.
The Yorkshire horse was also carrying a 3lb penalty for his win at Ascot last weekend, but Middleham-based Johnston was philosophical.
“Heavy Metal was in the wilderness for so long with no real explanation for that. It goes back to the old adage of looks well, runs well – he looks an absolute picture and is obviously in top form,” said Johnston.