MICK Easterby has nominated Itlaaq as his most likely winner at next week’s Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
The veteran Great Habton trainer – brother to the legendary Peter and uncle to Tim Easterby – intends to run the seven-year-old in the Betfred mile and a half handicap a week today.
He says Itlaaq, a winner at Thirsk in April, is unlikely to make the cut for the Ebor – the signature race of the four day meeting that will see connections compete for record prize money of £3.2m.
As for his stable star Hoof It, his entry in Friday’s Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes depends on the horse’s showing in today’s William Hill Great St Wilfrid Stakes at Ripon.
Easterby co-owns the sprinter with golfer Lee Westwood and his agent Chubby Chandler, but the horse has not won since defying top weight to land the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood two years ago.
His jockey Kieren Fallon believes Hoof It should be stepped up in trip while Easterby says the six-year-old can still win another big race.
“We’ll know more after today. If he goes well, he’ll probably go to the Nunthorpe,” said Easterby. “Hopefully he is on the way back.”
Meanwhile, Easterby said he’s more than happy to offer some golf lessons to Westwood after the latter’s meltdown in the USPGA Championships. There’s a catch – Easterby is not reputed for his prowess on the fairways!