If there is one race at the Cheltenham Festival in March where the Irish look guaranteed, it is the Triumph Hurdle in which they have Vauban, Fil Dor and Pied Piper. But that is, perhaps, to reckon without the unbeaten Knight Salute…
Cheltenham Festival one to watch: Knight Salute
When Milton Harris bought Knight Salute (pictured in the yellow cap) out of Andrew Balding’s yard for 14,000gns (£14,700) last summer, he had not beaten a single horse in his last four starts on the Flat. But the son of Sir Percy had won a novice race at Sandown as a juvenile and had been, at that stage, considered good enough, at least, to run in the Haynes, Hanson and Clark at Newbury.
Sometimes, however, a flight of hurdles and a change of scenery can make an amazing difference to a horse and now, unbeaten in five start over hurdles, the gelding will go to Cheltenham as the best of the British in his division (not that, alas, it offers any guarantee).
In Kempton’s Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle on Saturday, a race often won by Triumph Hurdle winners, he was typical Knight Salute – efficient with his jumping, workmanlike, unflashy and yet… there may be more left in the tank.
His trainer’s resurgence after a long time off, when the British Horseracing Authority refused him a licence on financial grounds, has also been one of the stories of the season and Knight Salute has been his flagship horse.
“We’ve not been beaten yet and he just does enough. I think we will be better on better ground,” said Harris.
“I’m not sure he will beat them [the Irish], but they will have a race from the last. He is a real professional, but he doesn’t do a lot at home as he is easy. I’d like to take a lot of credit, but there is not much.
“We are going there as third or fourth favourite and we are unbeaten. I’m sure the Irish horses are very good, but they are beatable. I’m sure we will get beaten at some point, but they’ve not done it yet.
“He was an inexpensive horse by today’s standards. We are in there with horses that cost 10 or 15 times more than him, but he is a competitor and that is important,” added the trainer.
- Read Marcus’s full report on the weekend’s racing action in Horse & Hound, in shops on Thursday 3 March
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