It is looking increasingly unlikely that Hoof It, one of last season’s leading sprint performers over five and six furlongs, will not be ready in time to take his chance in the big sprint at the York Ebor Festival, the Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, writes Elliot Slater.

The Mick Easterby-trained gelding made dramatic progress last term, beginning with victory in a good York handicap before returning to his local track to land the Sky Bet Dash nine weeks later. His biggest success of the term came when landing a monster gamble in the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood, justifying his market position of 13/2 favourite in beating Tax Free and 25 other rivals as he continued to gain hordes of admirers.

A staying-on sixth in last season’s Nunthorpe Stakes behind Margot Did, the son of Monsieur Bond, (owned jointly by leading international golfer Lee Westwood and ‘Chubby’ Chandler’), then ran a stormer when going down in a three-way photo to Dream Ahead in the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock.

Expected to be amongst the best sprinters around this term, Hoof It has failed to recapture his best form and has been limited to just two outings so far in 2012. A never-nearer fifth when sent off favourite for the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes on the Knavesmire in May, he again headed the market when attempting seven furlongs for the first time in nearly two years in the Group 3 Criterion Stakes at Newmarket recently, but could only finish fifth of the seven runners behind Libranno.

The eight-time winner has since been held up in his work and connections appear resigned to the fact that they appear to have lost the race against time to have their horse ready for action at York on August 24. The Sprint Cup at Haydock a couple of weeks later now seems the most likely next target for Easterby’s talented performer.

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