Steps scores for Steward and Varian
Jockey Louis Steward was wreathed in smiles following the victory of top-weight Steps in the Ladbrokes Portland Handicap at Doncaster this afternoon.
The 12/1 shot broke smartly and was always travelling well for Steward, tracking the leaders on the far side before making his move a furlong from home.
The seven-year-old, who was beaten by the shortest of noses in this race in 2013, sprinted away from his rivals in the last half a furlong to record a one and a quarter length success, giving his promising apprentice another big race victory.
“Everything panned out the way I hoped it would,” said the jockey.
“The main thing was getting him to jump, which he did, and I was always on terms after that. When the gaps opened, he took them in his stride and it all went perfectly from there.
“Everyone knows he has his quirks coming out of the stalls but he put up an absolutely brilliant performance today. He jumped well, travelled well and the gaps opened at the right time.
“The minute the gap came, he picked up lovely. If anything, he probably got there a bit too soon because I don’t think he likes being in front too long but he did it well in the end. I haven’t had the best of years but, to come and do this at the end of the year, is very special.
“Mr Varian said to me that five and a half furlongs was his ideal trip and this is the perfect race for him. I’m delighted.”
Roger Varian continued his sensational run of form having sent out two winners, six seconds and a fourth throughout the country yesterday, thanks to the victory of Steps (12/1) in the Ladbrokes Portland Handicap.
The seven-year-old was 10th in the Listed J20 Spritz Scarbrough Stakes at Doncaster on Wednesday but justified good market support to register a one and a quarter-length victory under top-weight. Steps finished third in the 2014 Scarbrough Stakes and was beaten a nose in the 2013 Ladbrokes Portland Stakes.
The son of Verglas broke well from the stalls before hitting the front inside the final furlong to win nicely under Louis Steward.
Varian said: “At the beginning of the week I was thinking, do I run him in the Scarbrough or the Portland and the forecast was dry so I thought to get the best ground I’d run on Wednesday, but he didn’t come out the gates, gave them a five length head start and got beat five lengths. However, he didn’t run that badly. I thought then I’d give him another run on Saturday..
“We have a good record here. It’s a very fair track and we like coming. He is one of the yard’s favourites. He has been around for a few years now and has got a lot of ability. He is very much a boss – I can’t take too much credit as he’s in charge of me.
“I am delighted for his owner, Michael Hill, who is a wonderful man to train for. He has been a staunch supporter of mine and Michael Jarvis before me. He’s had a rough time recently, losing his wife, and we were all a little bit disappointed on Wednesday. I am so glad that the horse has come good for him today.”
Varian praised Steward for a good ride: “Louis has got a good record in these big handicaps and he can add a Portland to that now. The drop of rain has helped him and he came out of the gates on terms. The visor has helped and Louis has given him a great ride. He has run very well at the highest level and he deserved to big handicap like that so I’m thrilled.”
Varian also earmarked a possible tilt at the Prix De L’Abbaye for the horse. He commented: “He has won a Rous Stakes at Ascot and that comes up in October so we may look at that. He is also in the Abbaye at Longchamp and people might think I’m mad but soft ground can suit a finisher there and while you can be out of a race at halfway he is such a strong finisher, if he got the splits, it would not be the maddest idea to look at that.”
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