SUNDAY TIMES, 2 August 2020
Friday may have been the hottest day of the year, but in race-riding terms nothing is hotter than the challenge of yesterday’s Stewards Cup. 27 sprinters rocketing down the Goodwood straight with no quarter asked or given. A jockey needs to keep his cool, Summerghand and Danny Tudhope was as chilled as a winter’s day at his Ayrshire homeland.
Summerghand’s four season excellence saw him top weighted with 9 stone 12 lbs conceding 19 lbs to Kimifive who was to be a photo finish second, but it was the timing of his final challenge rather than any extra burden that was to be crucial. For while Summerghand has a brilliant late burst he can only use it once and can hang fire once delivered. Not only would Tudhope have to judge it right but he had to pick the right horses to follow. Not easy amongst 26 rivals galloping at 45 miles an hour.
In Royal Ascot’s 22 runner Wokingham Stakes he had burst through to win the race in his group only to be inched out of it by a horse on the far side of the track. When this Stewards Cup split into three groups, Danny had to hope that he was in the fastest company and so calmly stalked the favourite Naharr as that horse worked his way through the field in the centre. A furlong out he wisely switched right into running space and hitting the front 100 yards out just held off Kimifive who was right across on the far rail. The 66-1 shot Brian The Snail defied his name to be close third on the nearside followed with the whole pack swooping close in pursuit.
It was Summerghand’s 10th victory in 42 races but his first with cheek pieces fitted. “I think they helped,” said Tudhope afterwards, “because when he hits the front he can duck and dive a bit. He’s a very talented horse and I was lucky to have a good run through but still thought I might have got there too soon and at the line I was not sure if I had won.”
The words, which retain his local accent despite more than half his 34 years spent south of the border, are as calm as the enviable smooth rhythm in which he rode the race. After a promising start, Tudhope’s career stalled to the point where he logged just six winners in 2010, the year by happy coincidence that Summerghand’s trainer David O’Meara began operations up in Yorkshire. The partnership is now a formidable one, both trainer and jockey landing record hauls last season and a jockeys’ championship could yet be in the offing.
On Friday, O”Meara also won Goodwood’s Unibet Mile with Prompting but was particularly touched by Summerghand’s success. “If there was a horse that ever deserved to win a heritage handicap this one did,” O’Meara said. “He was beaten a nose in the Wokingham and there are so many big races like this he’s hit the crossbar in and not had it quite his way.”
For the Summerghand team it was a day of delight, but for racing it was one of frustration and of sorrow. The Goodwood team saw £100,000 of preparations for yesterday’s planned limited crowd experiment go up in smoke and the “unfestive festival – theatre without
applause” feel of the empty racetrack was only made more sombre by the news of former champion jockey Stan Mellor’s passing at the age of 83.
Stan was three times champion jockey by the time he was 25 and would have topped the list many more but for a terrible face smashing fall at Aintree in 1963. But he remained the brightest and most inventive jockey I have ever seen and in 1971 broke one of the toughest glass ceilings in sport when he became the first rider to win 1,000 races over jumps.
Yet, despite all this, despite a distinguished later career as a trainer, it is for what he did for others that he should be best remembered. Stan was a thinker and a leader and did more for jockeys’ welfare than anyone else ever has or ever will. 1985 saw Al Trui win the Stewards Cup to land Stan his greatest flat racing success as a trainer. It also saw the birth of Danny Tudhope. Stan was the finest example of brain over brawn. He would have loved the brains which Danny used at Goodwood.