It was the weekend for future stars to shine as the first classics rolled round. Whilst all eyes were focused on Newmarket there was another 3yr old racing and proving that he himself could be a future star, but in a slightly different sphere. Savalas took his third win of the season, a perfect record from three runs, when battling bravely to take the 5f totesport.com Tangerine Trees Conditions Stakes at Hamilton.
Savalas returned this year with a perfect result to win at Wolverhampton, taking a small handicap off 79. It was just the kind of seasonal debut you like to see but the handicapper certainly didn’t take any chances with him and bumped his mark up 7lbs to 86. Connections were not too concerned as they felt the grey could well be open to plenty of improvement this year, so he should be capable off this mark. He stayed local for his next run as he headed to Thirsk for a much deeper contest, a 0-95 3yr old handicap over 5f. The competition was much stiffer with some good juveniles looking to build on their careers so far. Savalas travelled like a dream throughout the contest sitting just off the pace. When Kevin Stott asked him to pick up the leaders, Savalas quickened up well and swept down the stands side. He powered clear to win by a good 1 1/2 lengths and solidify his potential at this level. Following the run Kevin knew he had to give him another step up in grade to challenge Savalas once again.
Both wins had come over 5f so Kevin thought he may as well stick to the same plan which did mean he would have to do some studying of the entry book. It didn’t take too long before a viable option popped up as Hamilton took the eye. It is a race that has produced some good sprinters so it was no surprise to see a couple of smart horses declared for the contest. There were 6 due to line up but it did seem like there were three with serious chances whilst the others would need to really step up to challenge the leading players. Bengali Boys was top rated after his Super Sprint demolition job last year and was dropping in trip for his third run. Lake Volta had been battling in pattern company since his first couple of wins and proved he had trained on with a couple of good efforts. This meant that Savalas went into the race off two wins but would need to find 10lb improvement on paper if he were to match his main rivals.
Tom Eaves had missed out last time but was back on board, donning the yellow and purple silks he has thrived in. Savalas is very straight forward and bounced out on terms. Tom was sat quietly as the rank outsider went forward, closely tracked by Lake Volta on the far side. Savalas and Bengali Boys kept each other company down the stands side as they headed through the first furlong, free wheeling downhill.
The leader was not hanging about and as they started to race keenly he gained a break on the field. Joe Fanning (on board Lake Volta) had nothing on the inside of him so decided to shift left to join his market rivals. Savalas had moved through to now sit second with his rivals 1/2 and 1 length off him. The three jockeys didn’t seem to worry about the other three contenders and developed a bit of a race within the race as they grouped together. This meant that Tom was leading the trio as they looked to be uninterested in the lead given to the outsider.
Travelling strongly Savalas was soon pressing the leader as they bared down on the halfway point. It had been a strong pace throughout and Savalas took the lead a long way out. The favourite Bengali Boys was the first of the trio off the bridle as he attempted to close in on Savalas. As the outsider began to back pedal it left Lake Volta hot on the heels of Savalas. This led Tom to change his hands, tighten up the reins and begin to wind his mount up.
Tom had shifted Savalas through the gears and as they hit the 2f marker he decided it was time to go. Lake Volta was right on his girths and seemingly travelled the better up to this point. Bengali Boys had been working hard for 1/2 furlong now and was not making any impression on the front two. Although his jockey had been the more confident, Lake Volta quickly had to come off the bridle as it became clear that Savalas was going to keep up this pace. Tom now got serious and as he got into full drive his partner proved willing and able. The grey held a neck lead as they continued to run downhill into a dip. The leading pair had a break of about 2 lengths over the favourite who just couldn’t get on terms and was not picking up quickly enough.
The final furlong at Hamilton is uphill and this was going to be a real test for Savalas who had picked up the lead a long way from home. Lake Volta now joined him and there was nothing to separate the pair. Form over 6f was the big factor that Lake Volta held over Savalas. If the grey didn’t have the stamina left in the tank then it would be now that he could be picked off for the win. One thing he does have is plenty of heart and with Tom really asking for everything, Savalas was responding all the way. The two 3yr olds settled down to a ding dong battle up the hill and they were matching each other blow for blow. Bengali Boys was now starting to find something as the stiff finish started to help him finish but with 2 1/2 lengths to find the line was coming too soon. The leading pair couldn’t be separated and it looked certain that the judge would be called into action. Head down, head up the two were bobbing away as the lead switched on each stride. They flew past the line together and although it was agonisingly close it looked as though Tom had got Savalas to stretch just at the right time, passing the line. Thankfully the result didn’t take too long to be called and the grey was awarded his third win of the year, maintaining his 100% start.
This race was a step up for Savalas but he answered the questions posed. He had to find on official figures and proved that he was a match for his rivals. After showing great natural speed he then had to dig deep to fend off the runners up. They got racing from a long way from home and quickened up smartly to kick clear of the field. Savalas showed a huge heart and saw out every yard of the trip with the stiff, uphill finish really challenging him. They were caught by third placed Bengali boys but this probably owed to the titanic tussle the leading two had and they were tying up close to the line. Savalas was 4lbs wrong with the runner up and 12lbs wrong with the third, so this shows how good a performance this was. Looking at the race the handicapper will surely be tempted to put him up quite a bit and Savalas could well be pushed into the 100 regions. This will give Kevin plenty to think about as he plans the next move for Savalas. He believes he is an out and out 5f specialist so therefore it’ll depend on whether Kevin goes handicapping or a steps into pattern company. Obviously Pete and Angie love a York runner so the Westow Stakes, a 5f Listed event at the Dante meeting, could be an option although it may come too soon. Something like the Scurry stakes at Sandown could well be a perfect race for him. There are exciting times ahead with him and he’s another smart sprinter to carry Angie Bailey’s colours.