Chubby eyeing up yet another Major
Mick Easterby's Hoof It is a deserving Nunthorpe favourite, says Ronan Groome
AWAY from the fairways and the clubhouses, prior to this summer few sports fans would have recognised the name of Andrew Chubby Chandler. The Chubby Slam sounded more like a wrestling move and likewise, in the horse racing world, the name Hoof It was more likely to trigger an American farrier company on Google's search engine than a horse part-owned by Chandler and one of his stable of golfers, Lee Westwood.
How quickly things change in sport. It was last September that the Mick Easterby-trained Hoof It seemed to have come to the end of his tether. Having started the season off a handicap mark of 68, the son of Monsieur Bond had rhymed off a hat-trick of wins, improving his rating by 24lbs.
He went into a handicap on the Thursday of the Ebor meeting at York with reasonable claims but could only finish seventh. On his next start at Doncaster, he trailed home last of 18 runners. It appeared that at this stage, Hoof It had moved onto the handicapper's side of the court. No longer a progressive type, now a horse with the upstream task of trying to defy big weights in big handicaps.
In any case, it was all meant to be just a bit of a laugh for Westwood and Chandler, a get-away from the demands of professional golf. One of Chubby's mates told him to sell the horse, but what was the point, they were only in it for the fun.
It all began when Chandler got to know Mick Easterby through another owner, and after another winning tip was passed on to Chubby via text message from Mick's son David, an idea came to light. Chubby texted back a well-done message, containing the order to ring him if they ever wanted golfing tickets or anything of that sort. David texted back, "no tickets, how about a set of your colours?"
There was an unnamed two-year-old back in the yard exciting the Easterbys. Even more exciting now that Chandler and Westwood would be taking half a share between them.
If the general sports fan didn't know of Chubby Chandler until this summer, the avid golf follower knows of Chubby and his International Sports Management company, as the business has been around for over 20 years. Chandler was a journeyman golfer before his business venture. After a failed career as a golfer, he used the experience to his advantage and founded the business from a small office at his local golf club in 1989.
From just four golfers signed up at the beginning, Chubby's stable grew, and he now takes care of over 40 golfers across the globe. A Jerry Maguire of golf, he is the most powerful agent in his sport, many experts believe. And not only does Chubby's company take care of golfers, but footballers, cricketers and snooker players also hold positions in the ISM barn.
So any space for his 80-year-old horse-racing trainer then? Easterby is a true character on the British racing scene and has vowed to train horses until the day he dies. Three pints of stout every night before bed, then up at 6.0 the next morning to start his day with the same enthusiasm he had the day he first started training. The Yorkshire man has had a couple good horses in his long career, and a very good sprinter called Lochnager, which took the King's Stand, July Cup and Nunthorpe back in 1976. But Hoof It is a better sprinter than Lochnager, so says the trainer.
This season has been a revelation for the four-year-old. The gap between handicap sprinter and one that can compete in a Group race isn't as great as it would be for other distances, but even at that, Hoof It's progression has been astounding.
His performance in the traditional fiercely competitive Stewards' Cup at Goodwood defied logic. No horse had ever shouldered 10 stone and won the race. Never mind win, Hoof It annihilated his field, winning by two and a half lengths, a margin that is bigger than the previous six winning margins from the previous six winners of the race put together.
He is now favourite for the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes back at York on Friday, for which he will have to be supplemented this week. Not quite the equivalent of a Major, but a Group One race with a fair amount of prestige nonetheless.
Incidentally, Easterby is confident he will be even better next year, as is the norm with sprinters -- they usually get better with age. For Chubby and Co, the fun doesn't look like stopping anytime soon.
Sunday Indo Sport