A remarkable front-running victory for The Steward completed a big-priced double for trainer Jimmy Moffatt and conditional jockey Charlotte Jones at Newcastle on Tuesday.
Although without a win since the summer of 2019, The Steward did already have three all-weather wins on his CV – and ran well in defeat when beaten less than two lengths into fourth place at Gosforth Park a fortnight ago.
A 9-1 shot for his latest ‘jumpers bumper’ assignment, the 10-year-old was sent straight to the lead by Jones and quickly opened up a big advantage over the rest of the field.
Half a furlong clear of his rivals at the halfway stage, the chasing pack undoubtedly gave The Steward too much rope, but it was still a smart performance to win by 13 lengths.
“The Steward was a 96-rated Flat horse – and yes, I did fancy him,” said Moffatt.
“I didn’t quite think he would do it the way he did, (but) if you give a proper two-mile stayer on the Flat that much rope, you pay the consequences – and that’s what happened.
“He was getting tired at the finish, but he’s probably entitled to be. Enable would have got as tired doing that!
“He may well come back here on Monday.”
The victory saw his rider’s claim reduced from 7lb to 5lb.
Of Jones, Moffatt added: “She’s a good jockey. She’s been with us for five years, right from the start.
“I think that’s her 20th winner now for us, so her claim goes down to 5lb.
“It’s a big day for her, and she’s done really well.”
Moffatt and Jones had earlier successfully combined with shock 50-1 Dagian, but the trainer was less surprised than most.
He said: “He ran 13 days ago and blew up. He was still there a furlong and a half out, and I thought he’d come on quite a lot because we’d been held up with the ground.
“He wasn’t a bad Flat horse. Obviously, his form has been terrible over jumps. (But) genuinely, we were hopeful of a nice run.
“I was thinking he’d probably get in the frame – and the owners backed him to do that.”
Moffatt sent a total of seven runners from his Cartmel base on the treacherous journey through the snow to Newcastle – and having saddled three thirds to go with his two winners, he was delighted it was worth the effort.
He added: “The worst snow was the first five miles, coming out of Cartmel and over Shap.
“It was a difficult journey. But what drives you on as a trainer is you’re thinking of the ones that can’t get there (to race against you).”
There were also doubles on the day for jockey Ben Robinson and brothers Dan and Harry Skelton.
Robinson struck gold aboard Brian Ellison’s newcomer Punxsutawney Phil (9-2) – an appropriate winner on February 2 being named after a central character in Pennsylvania’s Groundhog Day celebrations – and David Loughnane’s 5-6 favourite Manjaam.
Ellison said: “His name relates to Groundhog Day, which is actually today, funnily enough.
“It wasn’t a big plan or anything to run him on Groundhog Day. They just put this meeting on and it happened to happen.”
The trainer nevertheless has high hopes for Punxsutawney Phil, adding: “We like him a lot and fancied him today.
“I’m not sure if we’ll go for a grass bumper or just wait for the Flat, but he will definitely go on the Flat at some stage.
“All the family went on the Flat and he is a nice horse.”
The Skeltons, meanwhile, teamed up to score with Not That Fuisse (13-8 favourite) and Proschema (11-4).