Griffiths Can Slay Goliaths
Often described as one of the best sports movies ever made, Hoosiers chronicles a small town Indiana high school basketball team that win the state championship. It’s a wonderful story of underdogs who rise above adversity and become champions. There’s a stirring scene late in the movie just before the Hickory High School players take to the court before the big final game when a prayer is offered up by Preacher Purl “And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it. And it struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground. Amen”
This Friday trainer David Griffiths won’t be using a sling and stone to slay the Goliaths of the training profession in the Nunthorpe Stakes, instead he’ll rely on his rapidly improving stable star Take Cover to propel him into the big time. The horse is by no means a forlorn hope. The bookmakers are taking no chances either about a horse that has risen over thirty pounds in the ratings since his arrival at Norcroft Park Stud near Bawtry South Yorkshire two years ago. However, when you cogitate that Take Cover is just one of twenty occupants and trained by someone who has only held a license for four years, the underdog cliché is indeed befitting.
Griffiths though will arrive at York, full of confidence having already proved that Group race success isn’t restricted to the big boys, when Take Cover gave him his first taste of victory in Pattern Company last month, landing the Group Two King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. A day that he’s still coming to terms with.
“It was half unbelievable. We always said and we thought he was this good and he’s that quick that he burns them off and just keeps going. But when Nick Luck put the camera in front of me I half didn’t know what to say. Even a few days after you still you don’t realise what you’ve just done. To have a first Group winner in only our fourth year and to have a horse this good is absolutely phenomenal. It’s what dreams are made of”, he confesses.
Griffiths, a former apprentice on the Flat for Ian Balding and Reg Hollishead, with over 100 winners to his name, gave up race riding after breaking his neck in October 2000. He initially spent time as a jockey coach at the Northern Racing College and helping out David Barron but his opportunity to try his hand at the training game came when his late father-in-law Gary Noble built him a yard and cogently set him up in 2010.
“We owe Gary so much. He built us this fantastic facility and what he has done for us is just phenomenal”, he admits.
When Take Cover arrived at the Bawtry base he was rated 79 and not an obvious Group winning sprinter on pedigree, being by Singspiel, but Griffiths has subsequently unearthed a real dashing gem and potentially a horse that could take him to far flung destinations. So what has been the key to unlocking this improvement?
“Can I tell you I don’t know”, he laughs. “It’s taken us a bit of time to figure him out; we’ve had him three years. He won first time out for us at Haydock on heavy ground so it was on the back of my mind that he always wanted give in the ground but as time has come to pass that he wants top of the ground and he wants five furlongs, it’s been a learning curve”, he acknowledges.
“He was a lot harder to train two years ago. He was very keen, nearly a runaway in fairness. But he’s settled down and chilled out a little bit. In his homework we would never put him in front he’d always have a lead horse but as we’ve found out he just loves bowling along in front and that’s now how he does it. He’s gone from strength to strength and he’s lightly raced for a seven year old so arguably he can get better and better”.
“I always felt he could be Group class but we never said this fella was a group horse last year but he’s just kept on improving, and touch wood we’ve kept him right, we know how to ride him now; we know what ground he wants and I do now believe he is a Group One horse. Obviously he did the business at Goodwood and needs to do it again next week but I do believe he deserves his place”, he states.
Take Cover doesn’t know how to run a bad race but next Friday’s Nunthorpe renewal will require a career best performance, something Griffiths believes he can produce.
“I’m quietly confident. He’s in good form. He’s come out of Goodwood very well and I think if he brings his A-game, and right now he’s on fire, I really believe, although you can’t say he’s going to win a Group One but I think he’ll be very competitive”.
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