Purchases from the breeze ups have provided Kevin with a lot of talented horses. This is where the bigger money is spent and although it doesn’t guarantee success, Steve Hillen and Kevin have a long list of top class recruits to their name. Savalas was knocked down for £100,000 at the Goffs UK breeze up sale and having shown plenty of promise it was third time lucky when he quickened up to win the 5f Sporting Life Pick 7 Starts Now EBF Novice Stakes at Thirsk.
It is well known that Kevin likes to introduce a nice juvenile at York and this is exactly what he did with Savalas, who first turned out at the Dante festival. Travelling well throughout he just couldn’t pick up in the tacky ground but wasn’t beaten that far in a race won buy Santry, who went on to finish second in the Norfolk at Royal Ascot. This performance promised a lot and so it was no surprise to see him sent off a short price in his second start at Beverley. Unfortunately he had a wide draw to contend with so when he jumped well Tom (Eaves) decided to go forward. Again he showed good speed but was always doing just a little too much and ended up setting the race up for eventual winner who tracked him throughout.
Both runs had shown promise and Savalas had been slightly unlucky in each race, once with ground and once with the draw. When declared for the 5f race at Thirsk it looked like a ideal race but one that provide a tough test. Favourite Rumshak was a previous winner as well as the Fahey trained Cameo Star. This meant the pair would have to concede weight to Savalas which Kevin felt would be very tough for them to do. With the experienced pair in the field Tom, who was on board once again, was keen to try and get Savalas to settle, hoping something could give him a lead.
The stalls were positioned in the centre of the track and the lads decided that they would keep it simple. Savalas jumped well and was at the fore front initially. Rumshak was drawn alongside and as the pair matched each other early on Tom then happily took a lead off the favourite, with both jockeys keen not to take each other on. It was a good gallop but nothing too strong so the 11 runners were closely bunched through the initial stages.
Ground conditions were described as almost perfect by the jockeys, possibly just on the soft side of good. This meant that it would be a true test and Rumshak was keeping it simple, heading the field. Savalas was one side and Mr Greenlight the other, with the leader the three spearheaded the field. They were through the first half of the race quickly and with the pace they were showing it was applying pressure to a few of the back markers. Despite only being a 5f race the field began to get strung moving inside the 3f marker as Rumshak continued to shift up through the gears. Savalas has settled lovely in behind and this new tactic seemed to be suiting him, travelling well and easily matching the leader’s pace.
The complexion of the race changed as they passed the 2f marker. Rumshak kicked on for home and this increased the pace. Only Savalas and Mr Greenlight could go with the leader and it suddenly became obvious that the winner would be from the front three. Tom got lower in the saddle to go after the favourite and initially Savalas matched his foe, with the distance maintaining itself.
There was no let up in front and the favourite was getting stronger with every yard. Savalas just flattened out for a few strides and it seemed as though he may have to settle for a placed effort. Tom was determined and as he changed his hands, a couple of reminders got Savalas to change legs and pick up once more. There was only a furlong to run and 1 length to make up on a horse that was not stopping. Rumshak had managed to repel Mr Greenlight but it was Savalas who was coming back for more. The grey closed with every yard and the two settled down to a great battle between two determined juveniles. Tom was getting a real tune out of his mount and the pair got to the front, neck and neck with the fav. Savalas was not stopping and with 100 yards to run he had poked his nose in front. There was no denying him now and in full flow he managed to continue his run. Galloping out all the way to the line he forced his way to the lead and powered away. Hitting the line Savalas had put 1/2 length between him and his foe to earn a first career win.
It was a very determined effort and Savalas won despite a couple of factors. Tom felt he got away with the ground and when he gets quicker going you will see the best of him. It was always felt that in time he would appreciate 6f and that was the case here. He ran all the way through the line and was strongest in the final furlong. Savalas has always been well thought of and he will be taking a step up in grade next time out. Owners Angie Bailey and Peter Tingey love York and have many a good day there so the Gimcrack is on the cards. Obviously it is a big step up but one that Kevin feels he warrants. Quick ground in August and 6f will suit and could easily be the formula to Savalas making the necessary improvement, hopefully securing a second win in the race for the yellow and purple silks.