HE went hoof to hoof with the best sprinters in the world - but nowhere was Hamish McGonagall more at home than dashing down the Knavesmire straight.
The nine-year-old, who was retired by trainer Tim Easterby last week, was a ten race winner for the Great Habton handler, amassing more than £419,000 in prize money in a 59 contest career.
"He has been an absolute superstar for us in recent years, being very consistent at the highest level of racing throughout his career," the master of Habton Grange said on his website.
It took time for the penny to drop. Hamish McGonagall didn't break his maiden until his sixth race - a maiden at Musselburgh - but it was York where he really shone and where he enjoyed his biggest success.
So it was perhaps fitting that his racing life finished at his favourite track - valiantly chasing down Jwala last August to finish a brave fourth in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
In all, he won four times at York, the biggest of those being the last when he beat Pabusar by a length and a half in the Listed John Smith's City Walls Stakes two years ago.
Three other handicaps fell his way in the Minster city for a horse that could never take the easy route to victory.
"What was more impressive was the fact that he always did it the hard way, from the front," added Easterby. "He was very consistent and finished in the first four a total of 40 times from those 59 runs. An absolute warrior, with the heart of a lion, and as tough as they come."
That meant taking on the very best in the sprinting division and Hamish McGonagall always embraced the challenge. In the Nunthorpe, he was so close, finishing second to Margot Did and third to Ortensia in successive years.
Anotherr tilt at York's great Group 1 dash was being primed again this term but Easterby said: "Although he still loves his racing as much as ever, his body is telling us it is time to retire him.
"Hamish McGonagall absolutely loved York, Musselburgh and Longchamp and had a huge following wherever he went. It is only fitting that he should end his career at York, a course that was very special to him.
"What a great servant to us and his owners he has been over the years."
Win bonus increases legacy of RL’s Steve
A RACEHORSE named after a rugby league star who raised nearly £500,000 for charity after being diagnosed with terminal cancer has won his debut race for Malton trainer Richard Fahey.
Steve Prescott is a two year-old owned by Dr Marwan Koukash, a successful businessman whose two passions have led him to buy a string of leading racehorses and the Salford Red Devils Rugby League club.
After the Dutch Art-sired colt stormed to victory in a five-furlong maiden race at Haydock last Saturday, Koukash said: “I have never been so thrilled in all my life.”
He added: “Obviously everyone in Rugby League knows about Steve Prescott but I wanted to bring his name into racing.”
Precott’s wife Linzi and two sons were delighted by the idea, and were at Haydock on Saturday to see the horse’s impressive debut. Koukash had said he wanted to give the family “something to cheer them up”.
He has also pledged to donate all prize money to the Steve Prescott Foundation, which was founded by the Rugby League international when he was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer, aged 32.
Prescott had helped St Helens win the Super League, and the Challenge Cup twice, before moving to the Hull Sharks, where he was a firm favourite among fans. He also represented both England and Ireland.
In 2006, two years after retiring from the sport, he was diagnosed with cancer and given months to live. He reacted by completing epic challenges to raise money for charity.
In 2010, Prescott was awarded an MBE for services to Rugby League and charity. He continued his fund-raising efforts until his death last November aged 39.
Koukash added of the star’s namesake: “I wanted a horse fast enough and brave enough who was fit to carry his name.”
Fahey said: “It’s tremendous Marwan has named him after Steve, who was a wonderful rugby player and inspiration to so many people. He’s a horse we like and hopefully he will raise awareness of – and money for – the Steve Prescott Foundation.”