Hoof It, the 2011 Stewards’ Cup winner, got back to winning ways at Goodwood in a tight finish to the opening Qatar Stewards’ Sprint Stakes (Consolation Race for the Qatar Stewards’ Cup) this afternoon.
Five years on from his memorable Stewards’ Cup triumph, the nine-year-old thundered up the track he knows so well to thwart the challenges of Related and Nuno Tristan by a neck and three-quarters of a length.
It was left to birthday boy jockey Nathan Evans to relive a race he said “was the thrill of my lifetime”.
Evans turned 19 today and belied his inexperience to give the former Qatar Stewards’ Cup winner (Hoof It carried top-weight to win the race in 2011) a peach of a ride. Evans joined trainer Mick Easterby as an apprentice two years ago and had his first winner at Thirsk on April 18, 2015. Evans rode 12 winners last season and this was his 28th winner of the current campaign.
“That was a lovely birthday present,” said Evans. “To have a winner at Glorious Goodwood on Stewards’ Cup day, on Hoof It as well, is brilliant. He’s a great horse. He’s been good to me – it’s a dream. We came out of stall 11 and the boss (trainer Mick Easterby) deliberately chose as near to the inside as he could. We jumped out nicely but, for a long way, he didn’t travel that well for me.
“He stuck at it very well though. I don’t know why he loves it here so much. He’s getting old now – he’s a nine-year-old, and maybe a bit of cut in the ground suits him better nowadays. I think that helped him today. It’s unreal and I couldn’t ask to do it on a better horse – he’s just incredible. The boss is a great trainer and everyone in the yard who look after Hoof It does a great job to keep him right. I had the feeling that I had won. We got racing quite early but he just keeps battling and staying on.
“I’ve showjumped all my life back home in Ireland (Evans is from County Derry) but I always wanted to get into racing. I got an opportunity at Mick Easterby’s two years ago and I took that chance. The boss said come on a week’s trial and I’m still on my week’s trial! He’s a great man to work for is Michael. He’s very good, very fair and if you put in the work, he’ll give you the chances. I understand Mr Westwood (Lee – golfer) is very busy playing golf out in America but I’m sure I’ll speak to him soon. I’d like to thank him for the ride. Hopefully, I can do it all again on Hoof Along in the Stewards’ Cup!”
Trainer Paul Midgley is at Hamilton races this afternoon, but his absence did not prevent Related running a cracking race in the £75,000 Qatar Stewards’ Sprint Handicap over six furlongs.
Related was beaten a neck by Hoof It, and was three-quarters of a length ahead of third-placed Nuno Tristan – Stellarta from Michael Blanshard’s stable was fourth. Nuno Tristan, trained by Richard Fahey and ridden by Adam McNamara, has been running over seven furlongs of late, and he was staying on strongly at the finish.
The first two finished near the far side rails, suggesting horses drawn high near the stands’ rail will be disadvantaged in the £250,000 Qatar Stewards’ Cup, though Stellarta raced there.
Related is owned by Taylor’s Bloodstock Ltd, which is headed by Leeds-based Andy Taylor. He, Midgley and jockey Luke Morris who rode Related, will team up again later this afternoon with Ninjago, who runs in the Qatar Stewards’ Cup.
Taylor said: “We bought Related for 65,000 guineas at the October Horses-in-Training Sale and sent him to Paul. The horse needs good, fast ground, and the monsoon season we’ve endured for the past three months did not suit him at all.
“It probably got him well-handicapped to be honest – this race was an early closer and so he had to run off 92, whereas his mark is now 90. That 2lb probably cost us.
“He’s run really well, but it feels half-empty and half-full at the moment. I thought he would run really well today, but he didn’t want to go in the stalls and I was a bit worried there for a minute or two.
“We would have loved this horse to run in the big race [the Qatar Stewards’ Cup] but we have Ninjago for that race – unfortunately, looking at the result of this race, we’re not well drawn in stall 25. He’s in good form so you never know.”