The weekend racing all revolved around the Sprint Cup at Haydock with British racing offering their Group 1 before eyes turned to Ireland’s Champions Weekend. Brando was the team’s big hope in the feature but failed to fire. The star sprinter was just not himself on Saturday and although disappointed Kevin knows better than anyone that is the nature of the sport. Fortunately owners Pete Tingey and Angie Bailey take the rough with the smooth. Thankfully they didn’t have to wait long before another high came along. Just 24 hours later their next potential star, Tommy Taylor, landed the 6f Listed Garrowby Stakes at York.
Coming into the new season Tommy was one of the 3yr olds that there was high expectations of. Having raced over 7f during his juvenile season, including in group races, it may have been a surprise to some to see Kevin drop Tommy to 6f. Having strengthened over the winter his home work had all pointed towards a sprinting career and his first couple of runs proved it was a wise decision. Starting at Newmarket’s Craven meeting, Tommy ran a very promising race to finish 3rd in his first try at 6f. Having raced strongly he just got unbalanced heading into the dip but it was a very pleasing sprint debut. Unfortunately he would have to wait for his next start due to the enforced closure during June. Although not ideal he came back with another fine effort when just getting caught on the line to finish second in another good 3yr old handicap.
Tommy Taylor was not longer an unknown now and went into his next two races as favourite for both. The races were contested by the top 3yr old sprint handicappers. Unfortunately Tommy suffered a terrible run at the July course, getting bumped and barged throughout the contest which gave him no chance at all. This experience seemed to stick in his mind next time out where, again as favourite, he ran flat and never really raised a gallop. Well into the latter stages of the season there were options left but it meant that Kevin would need to step up Tommy to take on his elders for the first time.
The Garrowby Stakes at York was a step up in grade and Tommy would be taking on older sprinters but Kevin was confident that he would be up to the task. Following two poor runs he would now line up as an outsider but connections felt that he was far from it. Regular partner Tom Eaves was again in the saddle as they lined up against 6 rivals. Tommy would need to find around 1/2 stone to be competitive with some of his counterparts on official ratings. With group performers, an Ayr Gold Cup winner, Stewards Cup winner the race lived up to it’s feature tag and was a strong renewal of the Listed event.
Pace seemed to be quite obvious with Lancelot Du Lac in the field and he didn’t disappoint. The seven runners jumped on terms but it was the Stewards Cup winner who took the lead early. The jockeys were unsure where to race initially as there was a slight split in the field with Don’t Touch leading the favourite Downforce on the rail whilst the majority tracked Lancelot Du Lac just a bit further towards the centre of the track. Tommy was on the far side but quickly onto the heels of the leader.
After the first furlong the field merged together and began to edge towards the stands side rail. As they settled into their positions there was little to cover the seven runners and Tommy was very much to the forefront. It was a true gallop and the strong pace made sure they were running down to halfway quickly. With the front running Lancelot Du Lac turning the screw he made the rest get racing a long way out. To try and get on terms the field began to try and close by the halfway marker.
Nobody was showing any distress signals just yet but the jockeys were winding up ready for the final assault. Tom got to work on Tommy with 2 1/2f to run and needed a couple of back handers to sharpen him up. All of the field still had their chance and it was too soon to call a possible winner. Tommy pulled up a little closer and into second place on the leader’s girths. The favourite was starting to come into contention in behind but would need some room if he were to make up the ground.
The pace ha been strong throughout and the leader began to pay for it moving towards the 1f marker. Tommy was now getting into top gear and passed his rival to take the lead. Those who had chased the pace were starting to feel the strain as Tommy took the lead and went for home. Downforce was really starting to motor and after switching around the field he had daylight to challenge. Tommy kicked clear of his rivals and had all beat bar the favourite. With 1 1/2 length advantage Tom worked hard to keep it intact but Downforce was starting to hit top gear. With the gap diminishing the crowd were in for a great finish. Tommy had his head to floor driving for the line but Downforce was getting there with every stride. As the pair reached for the line they had pulled well clear of the rest, the only question left was who would come out on top. Yards from the line Downforce came to join Tommy Taylor and the two passed the line as one, nobody could call it immediately. Many thought the favourite had got there just in time. It was close, very close but the judge didn’t take long to call out the winner. Thankfully the brave Tommy Taylor had held on by the narrowest of margins and secured his second career win with a taking performance.
Tommy had been running well all year and deserved this win. It was a big ask of a 3yr old and even more so at the weights. He had 10lb to find with the winner and theoretically he was 5lb badly in with him, which makes the performance all the better. Tommy is a smart prospect and has a very bright future ahead of him. The Ayr Gold Cup is an option for this year and despite his age you would have to think he would go there with a big chance.
Later in the day there was another winner who was offering some condolence and compensation for their owner. Mr T A Rahman is a keen horseman but unfortunately he suffered tragedy through the week when Perfect Madge was fatally injured. It is one of the worst feelings in racing and obviously everyone was very upset with the incident. She will not be replaced but Major Jumbo ensured there was a win in her memory when he carried the orange and blue silks to victory in the 6f Coopers Marquee Handicap.
It’s been a long year for Jumbo who started all the way back in January when finishing second at Southwell. From there you may as well call him “Mr Consistent” as he rose up the handicap with his next six runs producing 2 wins and 4 paced efforts. His good form saw the grey fly up to a mark of 89 from a starting point of 68. The only poor run was last time out at York where it just looked like he may appreciate a step up to 6f. Following that run Kevin was torn, in the aftermath he felt that Jumbo maybe had had enough following a long year but when he saw the grey kicking the walls down he decided to give him one more go. Finding the 6f contest at York it would be decided he would head there, trying the longer trip for the first time in his 3yr old season.
Kevin Stott has delivered the goods on many of My Rahman’s horses and was booked for the ride, only his second on the grey. With all but two of his runs being over 5f Jumbo was seemingly the quickest horse in the field so Kevin would have to see how he jumped. Using his natural speed, Jumbo was quickly out and driven into his stride and the lead. Immediately the rest of the jockeys took the lead offered to them as the burly grey held a length lead and took them through the early stages. Kevin didn’t want to knock his mount out of his rhythm so dropped his hands and let him stride on, despite a strong gallop.
It was evident the pace was strong as the field was well stretched, with a good 10-12 lengths from first to last. Jumbo was pricking his ears in front, enjoying the daylight in front of him. The 6f would take some getting now thanks to Jumbo but Kevin seemed happy with the fractions. His rivals weren’t letting the pair get too far away and had him lined up from either side. Favourite Dakota Gold was being ridden with plenty of confidence as he was held up, stalking those in front.
They were soon baring down on halfway and Kevin made sure there was no letting up. Some may have seen distress in Kevin’s body language as his arms started to work. This movement was just to get Jumbo to lengthen and slowly move through the gears rather than a push button acceleration. As the screw was starting to turn in front, the chasing pack started to try and close on the leader, who was possibly now looking vulnerable to the finishers in the field.
Moving past the 2f marker and the complexion of the race suddenly started to change. Kevin may have been the first to start his effort but now he suddenly looked like he had the most horse left underneath him. As those around began to get to work vigorously, Kevin was still just winding away. Dakota Gold now moved up to track the leaders and it was him and Jumbo who now looked the strongest. With the lead and just under 2f to run Kevin decided now was the time to kick. Lower in the saddle he began to drive Jumbo along, who responded by moving clear. Although he started to pull away, Dakota Gold burst through to join him and the two would battle it out come the final furlong.
Major Jumbo still held sway but he was being pressed hard. Both horses were finding for pressure and they were neck and neck. Jumbo had not seen a rival since leaving the stalls and just started to edge left towards his rival. It was a real battle with neither giving an inch, nothing was separating the pair. Jumbo was still responding and despite edging left he was finishing strongly. Just yards left to run he got his grey head in front and pulled out a little extra. It was close but Jumbo had managed to make all, crossing the line for a narrow but brave neck victory.
This win really dispelled any worries about Major Jumbo getting the extra furlong. He did it the hard way and set a very strong gallop which make the win all the more impressive. The runner up has been a stalwart of the division this year so he is a good yard stick and Jumbo did well to repel the late challenge. Whether he runs again this season will be decided in the coming weeks but he is definitely a sprinter to watch. Now proving his worth over 6f the options are open to him now and hopefully he will develop into a proper Saturday horse next year with another winter on his back.