TOM QUEALLY’s horsemanship won the day as the popular Take Cover rolled back the years to win the prestigious totescoop6 Beverley Bullet.
Though nothing in racing will ever surpass the rider’s association with the legendary Frankel, this was certainly one of the more satisfying victories of his career.
Despite not riding for Bawtry trainer David Griffiths previously, he becalmed the quirky – and fractious – 10-year-old in the packed paddock at Beverley.
He then learned all about the veteran gelding’s idiosyncrasies as the horse was led to the five-furlong start on the Westwood by the trainer’s wife Sophie.
Then, after being loaded into the starting stalls last, he whipped off the horse’s blindfold as the gates opened and seized prime position on the running rail.
From there, Take Cover’s speed – Queally later said he had never ridden such a fast horse – was sufficient to hold off Paul Midgley’s Desert Law, who briefly challenged.
Yet the jockey kept sufficient in reserve as his charge pulled away from eventual runner-up Final Venture and The Wagon Wheel, who was finishing fastest of all under Cam Hardie.
Not only did this victory atone for Take Cover’s disappointment at York – he finished last in the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes after becoming fractious in the stalls while a rival played up – but this Listed success took the horse’s career earnings past the £570,000 mark.
Now the winner of 12 out of 39 races, it more than justified the decision of owner Andrew Hollis, of the Mansfield-based Norcroft Park Stud, to run the horse after his trainer harboured serious doubts.
Not only was Griffiths worried about the stiff uphill finish on watered ground that was not as fast as envisaged earlier in the week, but he had had to book a new jockey after regular rider David Allan was committed to race at Chester for his boss, Tim Easterby.
“In the morning, we weren’t going to run him,” Griffiths told The Yorkshire Post. “I put it all to Andrew and told him to make a decision. I said: ‘you make it this time’. He did and it turned out great.
“It was the first time that Tom had sat on the horse and the first time that he’d ridden for us. He did it spot on. He said afterwards that TC was the fastest horse that he’d ridden. Frankel was fast but he was a miler – Take Cover is a pure sprinter.
“He said he couldn’t believe how fast he was travelling and how the horse kept going to the line. He was pulling away at the end. After Frankel, anything is a climbdown but Tom showed his experience and horsemanship. I’m pleased he was available; he doesn’t get the rides he deserves.”
It is a measure of Take Cover’s popularity that fans were taking photographs as he was led off the horse box after arriving at Beverley for the East Yorkshire track’s feature race of the year.
There were even racegoers at the start asking about the horse and hoping that their equine favourite would not take off suddenly if Queally moved a muscle in the saddle – or try and break free from the stalls.
As Griffiths said, everything has to be perfect for his stable star to be seen at his best from the ground – the quicker the better – to the loading process at the start.
Though Take Cover holds an entry in next Sunday’s Group Two Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh, he is unlikely to make the trip to Ireland because of the forecast soft ground. Stablemate Duke Of Firenze is more than likely to represent a yard now on the 18-winner mark for the campaign, one short of its best.
As for Take Cover, options include a sprint at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting later this month. There is also every possibility that this durable and enigmatic sprinter will remain in training next year as an 11-year-old after this winning debut at Beverley that further enhanced the burgeoning reputation of the Bullet.
“The odds of us getting suitable ground at this time of year are diminishing by the day,” added Griffiths, a former jockey and riding instructor. “All being well, he will stay in training next year. Andrew and I have spoken about it. However, this was his second win of the summer, he’s as good as ever and he takes his races well. There’s no reason not to.”