FIRST, second, first, fourth – and now second.
For five years running, Take Cover has made the frame in the King George Stakes, one of Flat racing’s most prestigious sprints.
And, while the veteran 11-year-old had to settle for runner-up honours at Goodwood, the 20-1 Yorkshire outsider lost absolutely nothing in defeat to sprinting superstar Battaash.
Trained by Charlie Hills, the winner (and odds-on favourite) was imperious and showed why he’s now regarded as the fastest horse in Europe.
He’ll now head to York for the Nunthorpe Stakes and look to atone for last year’s fourth place finish when blowing the preliminaries.
There, he will almost certainly be reopposed by the David Griffiths-trained Take Cover who broke quickest of all, and led for the first furlong, before the Sheikh Hamdan-owned Battaash took command of this five furlong sprint.
Take Cover has still got his own sparkle. I think the quicker ground and this track – he just love it here, his stats here are amazing.David Griifths
Racing in isolation on the far side, it is testament to the resolution of Take Cover, the oldest horse in the race, that he battled all the way to the line under Andrea Atzeni and beat Muthmir in the race for second.
The complexion of the race was accurately forecast by Bawtry-based Griffiths in The Yorkshire Post yesterday when he said Battaash would be unbeatable if he was in peak condition – and so it proved.
“I’m delighted, the winner is seriously good, one of the best sprinters in Europe I would think. We’ve run an absolute cracker,” said Griffiths whose wife, Sophie, led Take Cover down to the start to ensure the horse kept his cool in the preliminaries.
“I said to a few people who’d backed us he’s pretty much at his best. They wrote him off a little bit today which is fine by us. He was on his own a little bit, if he’d had a little bit more company ... but the winner is seriously good. Four lengths he’s won by, but we’re best of the rest, so we’re delighted, chuffed to bits.
“Take Cover has still got his own sparkle. I think the quicker ground and this track – he just love it here, his stats here are amazing. He’s in the Nunthorpe and in the Flying Five on Champions weekend at the Curragh, so hopefully he’s back to his best and we can keep going. You would think this would be his last season – 11 is quite old, isn’t it? – but we’ll discuss that at the end of the year.”
This was concurred by Mansfield-based owner Andrew Hollis after his horse of a lifetime won £67,000 for finishing second and took his career earnings to the brink of £700,000.
“Take Cover is unbelievable at 11, he doesn’t owe me anything,” he said. “He’s won at Goodwood twice been placed and even last year on soft ground he performed to finish fourth. He always tries so hard and obviously David Griffiths knows what he’s doing with him and he’s got him right for today.”
And the aforementioned Atzeni added: “That was a good run, the horse that beat us is obviously a very good horse. Take Cover loves it here and he’s run a blinder.”
As for the winner, Battaash’s jockey Jim Crowley, who began his career riding jump horses for Sue and Harvey Smith on Baildon Moor, was overjoyed.
“He was a lot more relaxed than last year. Even Take Cover couldn’t lead him,” said the former jockey who has named the horse the ‘Batmobile’.
“This year I’ve noticed he is a bigger horse, he has filled out - last year he was quite narrow. The Nunthorpe would be perfect. Last year we got to the start too early and it blew his brain. I have been lucky to ride some great sprinters in Dubai. I think he tops the lot.”
Earlier there was compensation for the Queen when the well-backed Seniority won the Golden Mile for Skipton-born trainer William Haggas. The victory came just days after her globetrotting stayer Call To Mind suffered a career-ending injury in the Goodwood Cup.
Yet, while Her Majesty remains racing’s greatest ambassador, this was a day when her horse had to play second fiddle to the achievements of Battaash and Take Cover.