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HEROES OF YORK; Sharpo (Nunthorpe Stakes 1980-82).

VICTORY in York's 1982 Nunthorpe Stakes earned five-year-old Sharpo a permanent place in racing's record books for he was only the second horse in the race's history to win it three times.

The first to achieve the feat was a grey named Tag End, who won the race in 1928-30 and although he never had more than four rivals on the Knavesmire in a race that was in its fledgling stage, he was a smart and durable sprinter who won a total of 20 races, the last as a nine-year-old.

Until 1921 the Nunthorpe was a seller! Sixty years later, when for a few years it was rebranded as the William Hill Sprint Championship, it was the richest 5f race in Europe, being worth pounds 5,000 more than the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

It was appropriate that in 1982 the year's sprint champion should win the Sprint Championship, as that season Sharpo was some way ahead of his rivals. He proved his case by scooting home at York, the last leg of a big sprint treble.

Sharpo's early life makes interesting reading. He was trained by Jeremy Tree, who bought him for 10,000gns as a yearling for his long-established owner Monica Sheriffe, who enjoyed notable success even though she rarely had more than two in training at one time. He ran only once as a two-year-old, finishing down the field after knocking himself leaving the stalls in a Newbury maiden in September.

His next scheduled appearance was at Tattersalls sales in Newmarket that autumn, but a hind-leg injury suffered at Newbury meant he was unable to be sold and luckily for his owner he remained with Tree at Beckhampton.

Clearly, after his injury healed he was sparkling at home, as his first run as a three-year-old was in the Temple Stakes, which was then run at Sandown. It was a tough call for a once-raced three-year-old to be taking on established sprinters, but he proved well up to the task and in the space of a minute established himself as a top-class 5f performer.

After defeats in the Cork and Orrery and July Cup, both over 6f, Sharpo won the first of his three Nunthorpes with an easy two-anda-half-length success over the Palace House winner Valeriga.

When Sharpo ran in the Nunthorpe the following year he was almost ignored by the pundits. He'd won in France earlier in the season but ran a shocker on fast ground in the King's Stand and looked to have plenty on his plate as he was coming up against the two best sprinters that season, Moorestyle and Marwell.

He was sent off at 14-1, but there was one factor so many overlooked: rain. On soft ground when on song Sharpo had few peers, and he duly strode clear to win his second Sprint Championship by two and a half lengths from Marwell with Moorestyle back in third.

Even so he wasn't acclaimed the sprinter of the year. He had to wait another year, after Moorestyle and Marwell had moved on to pastures new, for that accolade. Although he was the darling of York, with his three Nunthorpe wins, he wasn't the darling of punters as a whole. Even when he had conditions in his favour he could run the odd stinker - usually when he was odds-on.

Colin Russell


Sharpo: had few peers on soft ground when on song
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Aug 14, 2011
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