David Griffiths is praying the rain stays away from Newbury as his veteran sprinter Take Cover prepares for what could be his swansong in Saturday’s Dubai International Airport World Trophy.
The 11-year-old has been a magnificent servant to his connections over the years, with two triumphs in the King George Stakes at Goodwood and victory in this Group Three contest 12 months ago featuring among 15 career wins.
Despite his advancing years, Take Cover is enjoying another fine campaign, chasing home Battaash when bidding for a King George hat-trick before successfully defending his crown in the Beverley Bullet last month.
He was far from disgraced when fifth behind fellow British raider Havana Grey in the Flying Five at the Curragh last Sunday, and Griffiths feels he could go out in a blaze of glory just six days later – provided conditions are in his favour.
He said: “He came back from Ireland fresh and well and he ran a great race over there on ground that was softer than ideal. He was only beaten a length and a half in a Group One, so it was a cracking effort.
“Fingers crossed it stays dry at Newbury. I think they’re saying the ground is on the soft side of good now and if it goes soft we might not run him, but we’ll see.
“If he does run, I think it will probably be his last run of the season. Whether he comes back next year, it’s too early to say, but it could well be his last run.”
Asked whether it could be an emotional afternoon, the Bawtry-based trainer added: “It could be, definitely. It would obviously be great if he can go out with a win.
“He’s been an amazing horse for us and if it’s good ground, I think we’ll go there pretty confident about his chances.”
Just a head in front of Take Cover when fourth in the Flying Five was Darren Bunyan’s Hit The Bid.
The pair are set to renew rivalry in Berkshire, although Bunyan will also be keeping an eye on the weather.
He said: “The ground makes a big difference to him, he’s proven that in the past, so we were very proud of him last week. We’re very positive overall.
“He has backed up well before. He ran well in France last season, then two weeks later he won a Listed at Cork and it took two days to get back from France.
“He’ll be going to Newbury fresher than most.”
Following a couple of disappointing runs in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and the Hackwood Stakes at this venue, the Charlie Hills-trained Equilateral made the most of having his sights lowered when dominating two rivals in a conditions race at Leicester less than a fortnight ago.
Connections are hoping he can prove his worth stepping back up in grade.
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah, said: “Charlie has always had quite a high opinion of him.
“He lost his way a bit in the summer, so we gave him a bit of time and he came back and won a three-runner race at Leicester nicely.
“He’s got to step up again now and we’re looking forward to seeing him run.”
Judicial shed his maiden tag over this course and distance four years ago and is arguably better than ever this season.
Julie Camacho’s stable star struck at Group Three level in the Coral Charge at Sandown on his penultimate start, but returns to Newbury with something to prove after failing to fire in the Nunthorpe at York.
Camacho’s husband and assistant, Steve Brown, said: “He was disappointing at York, but he came back home and wasn’t right and we discovered he had a blood disorder, which is obviously regrettable.
“We think he’s back in good form. We thought he was really well going into York, but obviously he wasn’t right and we’re pleased we found a reason.
“It was disappointing, as he split the first two in the Nunthorpe (Alpha Delphini and Mabs Cross) in the Palace House earlier in the year.
“We’re looking forward to Saturday and just hope the rain stays away. Good ground or the easy side of good we’ll get away with it, but he’s unproven on softer ground than that at this level.”
Aidan O’Brien’s Flying Five third Sioux Nation and John Quinn’s improving sprinter El Astronaute also feature in a 13-strong field.