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Race legend Mick Easterby set to hand over reins
Ryedale’s longest-serving trainer has announced his retirement. The inimitable Mick Easterby, 82, who took out a licence in 1961, will bring down the curtain on his distinguished and colourful career at the end of the year when he hands over the licence to his son, David, his long-time assistant.
“David is keen, so why not? I’m sure he’ll do very well,” said the Sheriff Hutton veteran, who joked: “Maybe I’ll go and live abroad, somewhere like Tenerife, but I’ll come back when I’ve spent all my money.”
Easterby, who started out with only a handful of horses, has trained a Classic winner in Mrs McArdy, successful in the 1977 1,000 Guineas, and a champion sprinter in Lochnager, who swept the board in 1976 by brilliantly capturing the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, Newmarket’s July Cup and the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in the hands of regular Malton jockey Edward Hide.
Among Easterby’s other notable victories in a career which has yielded more than 2,500 successes, are Boismoss (Cesarewitch Handicap), Peterhof (Triumph Hurdle), Jon George (Ayr Gold Cup) and, more recently, Gentleman’s Deal (Winter Derby) and Hoof It (Stewards’ Cup).
At Ayr last week, Easterby proved that his Midas touch had not deserted him in the autumn of his career by sending out two winners at one of his favourite meetings of the year, including evergreen nine-year-old Ancient Cross, who pushed his career earnings comfortably through the £100,000 barrier when getting home in a blanket finish to win the William Hill Silver Cup.
Ancient Cross, a 33-1 shot part-owned by Ryedale owner Steve Hull, beat Fast Shot, at 25-1, a neck into second, the runner-up being ironically trained by Tim Easterby, Mick’s nephew.
In promoting David to the number one training position, Mick is following on from his brother Peter – trainer of five Champion Hurdle winners and two Cheltenham Gold Cups – who handed over to his son Tim early in 1996. Father and son have since worked as a close-knit team at Great Habton, and the likelihood is that much the same will take place at Sheriff Hutton.
“I’m sure dad would make a fine assistant,” joked David Easterby, 36, who has proved a prolific producer of point-to-point winners in recent years, as well as working closely with his father. “I had always planned to train, but was not sure when.”
Now he knows.
2014 will not seem quite the same without runners carrying the name of M W Easterby for the first time in more than half-a-century. But he’ll still be in attendance, still playing a prominent role as his successor launches his career.
Tenerife, you imagine, will have to wait.
• “Rain, rain, go away, come back another day” may be the mantra of some trainers hoping for a sound racing surface as we head into the autumn, but Brian Ellison will be chanting the exact opposite this weekend as he aims to win one of Britain’s most famous handicaps with a confirmed mudlark.
Top Notch Tonto, previously trained by Ian McInnes, has proved a revelation since joining Ellison, winning two of his three starts, including, most recently, a Group 3 race at Haydock where he belied his 28-1 odds to clinch a shock success, which has resulted in his rating soaring by 17lb to 112.
Never before can Ellison have had a Flat horse rated so high.
The William Hill Cambridgeshire at Newmarket on Saturday is the next target for Top Notch Tonto, who has the look of a likely winner, especially as he is racing off his original handicap mark, plus a 4lb penalty in this ‘early-closing’ race, which effectively means he is 13lb ‘well-in’ compared to future assignments.
Ellison’s headache is the weather. Soft ground is a must for Top Notch Tonto to produce his best form and, however tempting the massive Cambridgeshire pot is, Ellison is reluctant to run him unless ground conditions are suitable.
If Top Notch Tonto does make the journey south, supporters of the gelding can be assured of the good form of the stable.
Ellison was on the mark at Ayr last week with Dream Walker – another mud-lover – who carries the colours of Keith Brown, who also happens to be the owner of Top Notch Tonto.
• Few trainers enjoyed a better time of it at Ayr’s Western Meeting than John Quinn, who sent out doubles on two of the three days and boosted his score to a magnificent seven winners in four days, thanks to further victories at Pontefract, Newcastle and Hamilton.
It was a remarkable upswing in fortune for the Highfield trainer, who, in three days, equalled his total score of six winners for the month of August, after a frustrating July when he saddled only one winner.
Quinn plainly had his horses buzzing for Ayr, a fact underlined on the opening card on Thursday when Robert Winston scored on Evanescent and Calculated Risk, and although Makin The Rules narrowly failed to follow up the next day, it was back to business on Saturday when Levitate and Cockney Sparrow both obliged under apprentice of the moment Oisin Murphy, who rode four from four on the day, including the Ayr Gold Cup on Highland Colori.
Quinn, who also sent out Innsbruck to win at 50-1 on his debut at Pontefract and Planetex to score at Newcastle, can seldom have enjoyed a more productive period.
And, if that wasn’t enough, yet another winner came his way at Hamilton on Sunday when Mr Gallivanter came home fast and late to gain a short-head success under Mick O’Connell. Phew.
• Nigel Tinkler is another Ryedale trainer to have hit a rich vein of form. Having been forced to endure the frustration of going through barren months in July and August, Tinkler bounced back with a vengeance last week with three winners in three days.
Caspar Lee scored for the Langton stable at Thirsk, Tinsill did likewise at Beverley the following afternoon and Teetotal blitzed home at Pontefract under apprentice Danielle Mooney.
Now that the tide has turned, more winners will surely come Tinkler’s way in the final six weeks of the Flat campaign.
• Supplicant confirmed his place among the leading juveniles of the season when gaining Group 2 honours at Newbury on Saturday when leading home his stablemate Rufford to give Richard Fahey an outstanding one-two in the Mill Reef Stakes. The horse is now likely to be aimed at next month’s Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.
Partnered by Tony Hamilton, who has a tremendous association with the speedy colt, riding him to all four of his wins, Supplicant carried the famous Cheveley Park Stud colours to a prestigious three-quarter length victory to provide Hamilton with his first Newbury success.
The talented colt, whose victory came only 24 hours after another of his stable-mates, Tales Of Grimm, had gained Listed-race glory at Newbury, contributed to an excellent Saturday for Fahey.
The Malton handler also won with Latenightrequest at Ayr and with Dolphin Village, whose success at Catterick provided Musley Bank apprentice Samantha Bell with the biggest win of her career.
Supplicant’s Newbury triumph rounded off a wonderful week for his dam, Pious.
At Sandown four days earlier, Penitent, his full-brother, returned to winning ways on his favourite soft ground to land Listed honours in the Fortune Stakes for Nawton trainer David O’Meara and jockey Danny Tudhope.
Penitent, originally trained in Newmarket by William Haggas, has done more for the careers of O’Meara and Tudhope than any other horse, the gelding having provided the pair with a brace of Group 2 wins last season before finishing second in Group 1 company at Longchamp in October.
Next stop for the seven-year-old is this weekend’s Joel Stakes at Newmarket, where he will be chasing more Group 2 glory in a race he won last season.
• While Jason Hart, attached to Declan Carroll’s Sledmere yard and riding in brilliant form, continues to blaze the trail in the apprentice championship a note should be made of a name with a familiar ring to it.
Jack Garritty, teenage son of former Ryedale jump jockey Russ, is making a good impression in his first season and looked cool, confident, stylish and effective when gaining his fourth win from 42 mounts at Catterick on Saturday.
His success was gained on Lil Sophella, trained at Middleham by Patrick Holmes, who had also supplied the youngster with a win on Imperator Augustus at Leicester last month.
The Holmes-Garritty link goes back a long way. A long-time assistant to Peter Beaumont, including during the Jodami days, Holmes was also playing his pivotal role when Hussard Collonges won the 2002 Royal And Sun Alliance Chase at Cheltenham at 33-1 ... ridden by none other than Russ Garritty.
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