Progression can come in a few different forms with horses, as the cliche goes “they are not machines”. It can be a rapid rise or it can be a slow burner, the other is the stop/start improvement which has one or two excuses thrown in. Knighted announced himself as a promising 3 year old at the beginning of the season. With a couple of disappointments following he got back on track when taking taking the 1 Mile Racing UK Straight-Mile Series Handicap at Redcar.
Having had 3 runs in juvenile season, which yielded a couple of good second placed efforts but no win, Knighted finished with a fair mark of 73. Being by Sir Prancelot, himself a precocious 2 year old, it was quite surprising to see him finish his season racing over 7f and looking as though he may end up wanting further. Following his third run it was decided to stick him away for the winter and also geld him. Both options looked to have done the trick when he came back into training, with his work being good and Knighted looked like a more refined article.
Coming to hand quite early, Knighted saw the track in late April to make his return to action. Running over a mile he raced towards the rear of the field, travelling well into the contest. He got a little caught out when the race quickened up and he stayed on late to finish fourth, showing promise for the season but also clearly indicating he would come on for the run. He certainly did and earned his first career win at Haydock next time out. Different tactics were employed, leading throughout, and it proved the perfect formula as he ran out a comfortable 1 1/2 length winner. This got connections excited for what might lie ahead but unfortunately the next couple of runs were nowhere near that level of form. At Doncaster he was tucked in behind the leaders and didn’t seem to enjoy that before getting wiped out at Chester on the following run. With two runs below par Kevin was keen to find the right race now to try and get Knighted’s head back in front and given him a nice confidence boost.
Redcar is a very fair track and the straight mile does seem to be one of the best miles in racing, as it offers all horses a chance of winning, whether you want to make it or come with a late burst of speed. The straight mile series handicap looked perfect for Knighted and so he was declared to line up against 5 rivals. Kevin Stott was in the saddle once again and was keen to be positive on Knighted, having felt he didn’t like seeing the back of other horses. Declared on good to soft ground, the wind throughout raceday had dried the course to ensure the ground was good, although slightly dead.
There was no obvious pace angles in the race so when the stalls opened there was no mad dash for the lead. This offered Kevin the perfect opportunity to go forward which he took and led the field. Keeping in a straight line from his draw, Knighted was joined in the lead by the Kit Marlowe but the pair raced slightly apart from each other. All the others were happy with the fairly sedate pace and tucked in behind the leading pair. Knighted showed immediately that he was preferring this style of racing as he pricked his ears with excitement.
All the jockeys looked happy with their positions in the field so there was no pressure on the two leaders. The 6 runners runners had slightly separated into two groups of 3 and Knighted led those racing stands side. He moved well through the first couple of furlongs and was definitely giving Kevin a chance to drop his hands allowing himself to stride out. When the ground becomes a little dead the best place to be is towards the fore and Kevin was in the ideal spot, keen to make the most of it.
Passing the halfway mark and the two leaders had yet to see any other rivals bar each other. They now began to converge and the 6 runners became one group with the four rivals lining up the pace setters. Knighted was still travelling well as he started to eyeball the other leader and heading towards the 3f the first injection of pace came. As the leaders wound it up from the front their counterparts had to follow suit. The deficit was just over a length so the field was still closely grouped. Moving between the 3f and 2f poles it was clear to see that the race was beginning to warm up. The two leaders were still travelling well and soon would be playing catch us if you can.
Knighted was still enjoying seeing daylight and things were looking all the better once they headed into the final couple of furlongs. Those giving chase now started to work hard but it was only the favourite Poet’s Dawn who started to make any impression. Knighted now started to really lay it down to his closest rival Kit Marlowe who now started to feel the pinch. As the pressure started to tell on him, the favourite moved around his outside to come with a challenge. Kevin was now into his drive as he was keen not to disappoint his mount. Poet’s Dawn through smoothly down the far side and he came to challenge Knighted moved on too. Now it was down to these two as the rest were struggling to make any impression.
Poet’s Dawn took the lead with just 1 1/2f to run but despite this Knighted still looked full of running. Kevin had to get a bit more serious now as his mount looked to be doing just enough. Full drive was in order and Kevin really got hold of Knighted, delivering a couple of reminders to tell him there was still work to do. It worked and the bay pulled alongside the favourite who was also now having to give his all. Passing the 1f marker and Knighted had pulled himself level from a 1/2 length disadvantage. It was set to be a battle for the final 200 yards with the rest well and firmly beaten. Knighted still looked to have more to give but he was making heavy weather of getting by a very game rival. Kevin was driving hard to convince his mount that the job was not done yet. The 3 year old began to get the message, proving that he was toying with his jockey all along. Eyeball to eyeball the leading pair had just 50 yards to run when Knighted decided that now was time to hit top gear. Finding more he edged into the lead and started to draw clear in the dying strides. By the time they hit the line he was in control and ran out a 1/2 length winner.
It was an important win for Knighted who left behind a couple of disappointments to win a little cosily in the end. It is starting to look like he is a horse who will do just enough that is asked of him but that could be due to an ability factor. He is a horse that Kevin has always liked and he may be better than his current mark. If that is true then he may find better company suits him more which could really see him flourish. Highclere Thoroughbred Racing are a very famous syndicate and it is always a great pleasure to train a winner in the light blue silks. Although Knighted made it look a little more difficult than it was, he won with a bit in hand and was well on top in the end. Now the handicapper will have his say and this will determine the next step. He is an improving horse and he will certainly be taking a step up in grade soon, hopefully showing that that is exactly what he needs to thrive and continue his progression.