Nottingham staged The Jockey Club Grass Roots Series Finals Day on Wednesday 29th September. The Jockey Club Grass Roots Flat Series is an initiative aimed at offering enhanced prize money to horses who tend to do their racing at a notch or two below Group or Listed level. It consists of four divisions - Sprint, Middle Distance, Stayers and Nursery – for which there were qualifiers across Jockey Club Racecourses throughout the summer.
We sent Graham Clark along to speak to the winners on the day…
MATTY TOO REGISTERS DECISIVE VICTORY IN JOCKEY CLUB GRASS ROOTS SERIES FINAL NURSERY TO SECURE BEST-EVER SEASONAL TALLY FOR TIM EASTERBY
Matty Too (4-1) ensured trainer Tim Easterby celebrated his best-ever annual domestic total after providing him with his 127th winner in Britain this year when getting his head back in front in the Jockey Club Grass Roots Series Final Nursery Handicap.
The two year old son of Mattmu has a long way to go before emulating the achievements of his Group Two winning sire, who was also trained by Easterby, but he took another significant step forward with a clear cut success on his return to six furlongs.
After meeting with defeat on his previous two starts over seven furlongs Matty Too appeared to appreciate the drop back in trip when claiming victory by a length and a half under David Allan to eclipse Easterby’s previous best total set in 2019.
William Easterby, son and assistant trainer, said: “That was really good and he is by Mattmu which is great. He has got a lot of his dad in him.
“We got him as a foal and he has got his dad’s head. We said he should enjoy the ground as he is by Mattmu and he absolutely loved it.
“I don’t think the drop back in trip (has made much difference) as he was always running well and right to the line.
“I think the bit of cut in the ground is the main thing that has helped him. It is great to be able to have a good go at some good money.
“We’ve had a fantastic year and we are lucky that we have a really good team and got some nice horses and great owners.”
Reflecting on the year as a whole Easterby pointed to Winter Power’s Group One success in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York at August as the undoubted highlight.
Easterby added: “Winter Power was probably the highlight of the season but it is not just about the big winners.
“The highlights also include owners having winners at different tracks and anyone having a winner is nice.
“It is great to get winners on the board for people, it is not just about numerical value in the year, it is about getting each horse to win each year.”
AVA GO JOE HEADS EASTERBY 1-2-3 IN GRASS ROOTS SPRINT HANDICAP FINAL
Ava Go Joe led home a 1-2-3 for the Easterby yard when scoring for the second time in his career in the Jockey Club Grass Roots Series Final Sprint Handicap under Duran Fentiman. Team Easterby’s 128th winner of the campaign brought up a 31.5-1 double for on the day.
After several near misses the 11-2 favourite finally added to his Beverley maiden success when defeating Wade’s Magic by three quarters of a length with East Street Revue the same distance back in third in the six furlong event.
Easterby said: “It was really good and you can’t really beat it! They would have been hard to split at home. You have old East Street Revue who is a bit of an old hero and he can always run a great race.
“You have Ava Go Joe, who we thought would improve for cut in the ground which he has done.
“As for Wade’s Magic he has been running some fantastic races under Ella (McCain) all year and he likes some cut in the ground so it’s a great result.”
IAN WILLIAMS HEAPS PRAISE ON DAVID EGAN AFTER IDILICO SNAPS LENGTHY LOSING RUN IN JOCKEY CLUB GRASS ROOTS SERIES STAYERS’ FINAL
Trainer Ian Williams believes Group One-winning rider David Egan deserves “full credit” for reviving the fortunes of Idilico who secured his first win in almost three years with a surprise success in the Jockey Club Grass Roots Series Stayers’ Final Handicap.
Without a victory to his name since running out the winner of a juvenile hurdle at Uttoxeter in October 2018, the gelded son of Lawman set the record straight in the mile and three-quarters prize when responding to a first time tongue tie.
Although pressed late on the 25-1 chance stuck to the task well under Egan before edging out the hat-trick seeking Haizoom by a head.
Williams said: “It was a surprise to be fair as we have expected him to do better in his previous races.
“He has probably fallen down to a decent mark but full credit goes to David Egan who has given him some ride.
“Things conspired against him but he didn’t get to the front too early. Carrying little weight in a more competitive handicap obviously suited him.
“The tongue tie was a new addition and that has obviously been a welcome addition.”
A date under the hammer now awaits the six year old with Williams set to send him to the Goffs Horses In Training Sale at Doncaster next month.
He added: “He is in the sales at Doncaster next month and that is where he is likely to go.
“He is one that could definitely go hurdling while he has also schooled over fences.”
TOP-WEIGHT NO PROBLEM FOR HOWZER BLACK IN GRASS ROOTS MIDDLE DISTANCE FINAL
Jockey Callum Rodriguez showered plenty of praise on Howzer Black, who he described as “tough and genuine” after carrying top-weight to glory in the Jockey Club Grass Roots Series Middle Distance Final Handicap.
Making his 17th start of the year the Keith Dalgleish-trained Requinto gelding battled back well after being headed late on in the mile and a quarter contest before claiming his third success of 2021.
Enjoying a late tussle with Natchez Trace, the 11-1 chance rallied in game fashion before scoring by a short head.
Rodriguez said: “It has been a really progressive year for him and it has been a top year. He just keeps coming out and winning so it is really good.
“He is just so tough and genuine it would take a good one to pass him. When one comes, he just sticks his head out and he doesn’t let them by.
“The hood just helps keep a lid on him. Just going to the start and getting on him he likes to get a bit excited but he is doing really well.
“He is a very versatile horse, soft or fast it doesn’t matter.”
CAVE DIVER DIGS DEEP TO EARN PLENTY OF PRAISE FROM COX
Clive Cox praised the “determination and courage” demonstrated by Cave Diver, who opened her account in tenacious fashion in division one of the EBF Oh Sharp Maiden Fillies’ Stakes. This contest was named after 1985 Fillies Triple Crown (1000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger) heroine Oh So Sharp, who made a winning debut at Nottingham in 1984.
Having finished an eye-catching third on her debut over seven furlongs at Haydock Park 54 days ago, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned daughter of Ulysses appeared appreciate the step up to an extended mile.
Despite being headed by eventual runner-up Fresh Hope inside the two pole the 12-1 chance was not to be denied after rallying back in game fashion alongside the far side rail before prevailing by half a length under Hector Crouch.
Cox, speaking away from the track, said: “I’m really pleased because from an outside stall she showed a lot of determination and courage. She really dug in.
“I think it would have been a big ask to have taken her back and follow the rest of the field. She had really come forward for that third place effort at Haydock and Hector has given her a great ride.
“The step up in trip has helped her and it is great to see Ulysses getting some winners as a stallion now. I could not be more pleased.
“We will see how she comes back but I don’t think she minded the ease in the ground so we might go again. I was just pleased she equipped herself well today.
“The way she has won today would suggest she would get a bit further.”