Fans of National Hunt racing often laud the longevity of their stars as one of the reasons why the jumps side of horse racing is more appealing than the flat. The best flat sprinters are often sent to stud before they have reached the age of five, but there are notable examples of horses continuing on the flat well into their twilight years.
The primary example of this being David Griffiths’ Take Cover, who looked as good as ever last season, despite reaching the ripe old age of ten. Griffiths’ teenager ran in some of the most prestigious sprints in flat racing, winning four of his eight appearances during 2017. The eleven-year-old managed to get his hands on three Listed trophies and even claimed a stunning victory in the Grade Three World Trophy Stakes at Newbury.
After finishing eleventh in a classy renewal of the Nunthorpe, Take Cover came to Beverley for the first time, looking to bounce back to form in the Listed Bullet Sprint. Tom Queally’s mount blasted out of stall two, taking his customary position at the front of the field and none of his younger rivals could pass him. The stands erupted as Take Cover held on to win Beverley’s showpiece race of the season, emulating the great Borderlescott, who was also a ten-year-old when he triumphed in the Beverley Bullet.
Despite being based just an hour down the road in Doncaster, that was David Griffiths’ first victory in Beverley’s biggest race of the year. Rain in the build-up to the Bullet almost saw Take Cover withdrawn, but after watching his stable star claim yet another lucrative prize, Griffiths was quick to express his delight.
“I said to Andrew Hollis (of owners Norcroft Park Stud) that I didn't think we should run because of the rain we had, so this is all down to him.” Griffiths’ told the press.
“I thought good ground and a stiff five furlongs might find him out, so I'm absolutely chuffed to bits.”
Take Cover’s seventh season at the top of the sprinting ranks came to an end with a superb win over in Dundalk. Despite all the success he enjoyed, some were suggesting that Irish triumph would be the perfect way to close the curtain on what has been a wonderful career. However, Griffiths said before travelling to Dundalk that there are no plans to send Take Cover into retirement any time soon.
“To keep coming back like that, he’s unbelievable. Tom (Queally) said (After winning the Beverley Bullet), ‘I don’t think I’ve ridden anything as quick’.”
"He seems as good as ever so retirement is not a thought at the moment. He has won three times this season so far and that is not a sign of a horse wanting his pension book."
Borderlescott returned to Beverley 12 months after winning the Bullet and attempted to become the first eleven-year-old to win a Listed sprint since Dancing Mystery claimed the Hever Stakes on the polytrack at Lingfield back in 2005. Sadly, the two-time Nunthorpe winner rated by Racingtips.com as one of the top 5 horses in the last decade, came up a length short, passing the post third as Stepper Point powered to victory from the front of the field.
Baring injury or an unseasonably poor spell of weather, Take Cover will return to try and defend his crown in the summer of 2018. The ITV Racing cameras came to Beverley for the first time last year to capture Take Cover’s victory and it’s highly likely they will be here again to see if Griffiths’ eleven-year-old can repeat that incredible feat.
If Take Cover was to become the first horse since Chookie Heiton to defend his Bullet crown, then the thousands watching from home and the capacity crowd here at Beverley will witness their own little slice of horse racing history.