Saturday is racing’s busiest day and despite plenty of meetings Kevin had a select team of just five runners out for the day. He certainly made sure it was worthwhile as two of those returned home victorious as Mont Kinabalu and Knighted provided a double within 5 minutes of each other, continuing the yards great form.
Mont Kinabalu is the type of horse that trainers just love. Tough and genuine he will lay everything on the line but at the same time has a personality to match. The good thing with horse who want to race is that you know what your going to get so when you mix that with ability they are easy horses to train. He left it late but Kinabalu gained his second win on the bounce taking the 1 Mile Pertemps Network Handicap at Haydock.
Last year Kinabalu was one of the most active juveniles, racing six times in total. Although only one of those runs produced a win, a York novice, his form in defeat stacks up. He came up against some quality horses, notably James Garfield who won the Group 3 Greenham, so if he could progress as a 3yr old he could be a nice prospect. Well in his three runs so far he has certainly proven to be just that and looks like a horse to keep on your side.
Having made a pleasing return to action, when third at Chelmsford, Kinabalu improved to win on his next start. In a thrilling finish, Kinabalu flew home to win at Beverley taking the race in the dying strides. His burst of speed was impressive but having only just got up the handicapper couldn’t be too harsh on him. An extra 3lb was allotted to his handicap mark, rising to 82, which meant Kevin could still run in a class 4 handicap but he opted to stick with class 3 company. Although it was the same grade of race, Haydock would be a sterner test after the declarations showed some well regarded and unexposed types.
Although the opposition did look stronger, it was strange to see Kinabalu rather friendless in the betting. He was judged to be almost the outsider of the field, even against the horse he beat at Beverley, Alfa McGuire. Horses don’t know their prices and both Kevin and Tom (Eaves) were confident Kinabalu still had more to come. The trip was 1/2f further which should play to his strengths and nothing would be tougher in the finish.
Impressing last time out, Tom was only ever going to adopt the same tactics. When the stalls opened Alfa McGuire quickly took the lead and moved forward at a brisk gallop. Taking along a couple of rivals, it allowed Tom to tuck in against the rail with the leader in his direct eyeline. The eight runners settled down to race in three lines but as they headed to the bend, after 2f, Alfa McGuire slowed up in front which bunched the field up.
Entering the turn and the lead changed hands with Jim Crowley wanting to increase the pace once again. This thinned the field out a little and now they raced just two deep as the jockeys were keen to take the shortest route along the rail. Tom had not left the paint and sat nicely positioned in fourth place, always having the leaders in sight. He travelled smoothly around the bend as the runners swept round and began to hit the straight. Having raced strongly to take the lead now Crowley tried to steady the tempo once again before he straightened up for home and looked down the long run in.
Haydock has a long straight of just over 4f so as they entered run in the field still had 1/2 of the race to run. Kinabalu was travelling nicely and still held his position on the inside. The favourite was perched right on his outside ready to strike if or when the pace began to slack. Between the 4f and 3f marker the leader, Rumm Runner, was allowed to stride on and opened up a couple off lengths lead. The rest didn’t seem too fussed about this and continued to stalk in their preferred positions.
The race began to heat up inside the 3f marker and heading down inside the final couple of furlongs. The leader had no choice but to kick and try to utilise their advantage, which he did do for a while. Now the rest had to start to give chase and one by one the jockeys got into their drive. Kinabalu was the last one left on the bridle and although he was full of running, Tom now had the difficulty of trying to get a run. Passing the 2f pole and the leader still held sway whilst the favourite was taking time to get into top gear. Tom was still full of running but he couldn’t find the gap. There was a small opening that he aimed Kinabalu for but just as he went to go through his rival edged left and closed it up immediately. Now he had to switch around them to come further towards the stands side.
Moving into the final furlong and still nothing had got past Rum Runner. The race was truly on and Kinabalu was still full of running. He was rapidly running out of time and as he angled for his run the favourite was having none of it, trying hard to lock him up. Tom and Mont Kinabalu make a formidable partnership as neither give an inch and are will to put it on the line. The gap was closing but Kinabalu was not shying away from it and Tom trusted his mount. Battling with the favourite he won the duel and now had a run to try and got after the leader. With just 1/2f to run there was 5 across the track set to dive for the line together. Now Kinabalu was shifting through the gears and was getting the run he had waited for. It was going to be a thriller as Rum Runner finally surrendered the lead. It was a four way drive for the line but Kinabalu was motoring and burst through to snatch the lead in the dying strides. As they flashed past the line Kinabalu had managed to eek out a neck advantage, taking his second win of the season.
There were some talking horses in this race but nobody travelled as well as Mont Kinabalu and nothing could match his turn of foot. It was again another impressive finishing burst of speed that Kinabalu showed, getting out of trouble late on but quickly putting the race to bed. He is so tough and very game so there could well be more improvement to come. The handicapper will not take a chance this time but Kinabalu may well have some more in hand. He loves a good pace to aim at and can see the trip out well so some bigger handicaps may be in order. A return to Haydock for the Silver Bowl could well be the ideal next step and possibly a Royal date for the Britannia, strong handicaps that offer a real challenge, something Mont Kinabalu could relish.
Just as Kinabalu crossed the line the TV coverage quickly changed to Nottingham to pick up their contest 5 minutes later. Knighted lined up against nine rivals and made all to take his first career win in the 1m1/2f DG Executive Cars Weddings & Airport Journeys Handicap, completing an across the card double for Kevin.
Highclere Racing first owned horses with Kevin in 2011 when they purchased a couple of winning juveniles. Last year they renewed the partnership when buying two yearlings and the light blue silks were once again seen in Hambleton Lodge. Knighted is by Sir Prancealot and he looked likely to be a sharp, sprinting individual. After he continued to grow and strengthen it became clear that the bay may require a bit further and he could be better as a 3yr old. Following three promising runs as a juvenile, with a couple of second places, he was put away for a 3yr old campaign that could see him fulfil his potential.
Knighted returned to training a far more refined horse and came to hand early on. Unfortunately the opportunities were a little limited, especially with the weather, so his seasonal debut had to wait until the end of April at Haydock. Having travelled well he just got tired with a furlong to go, gaining a second wind late on to finish fourth. It was promising and really sharpened him up for the season ahead.
Keen to get him back into action Kevin found the race at Nottingham and it looked ideal for him. Although he was a beaten favourite last time out, the punters once again fancied his chances and so Knighted would go off 9/4 fav. Kevin Stott was booked for the ride and with his mount 100% race sharp he went out full of confidence. Straight from the off he looked to take control of the race, sending Knighted into the lead. He was pressed for it and could easily have settled for a lead but Kevin wanted to dictate so made sure that he was first as they raced through the first furlong. Running off a slight bend the field settled down to good, even gallop with Knighted at the head of affairs.
Ears were pricked as daylight was in front of him and Knighted travelled well. He took them down the back straight and into the long sweeping bend. It was a nice gallop, sure to suit all the field and with a long straight there shouldn’t be many hard luck stories. Knighted took the bend well and soon had the field entering the run in. Around 10 lengths separated the entire field so it would be race on come the second half of the contest.
Moving into the final 1/2 mile and Knighted was still out in front, allowed to dictate he steadied it up. Kevin knew he would have to kick at some point and just started to wind up Knighted, trying to get him to lengthen and move up the gears. It wasn’t really proving to be too much difference initially and his closest rivals moved along with him looking a lot more comfortable. Hitting the 3f marker and Kevin now had to get serious to try and get Knighted to quicken up. He didn’t tough and suddenly a trio of rivals pulled up alongside going stronger. Sensing the danger Kevin really tried to conjure up a run and under pressure Knighted began to get unbalanced, rolling to his right into a rival.
Passing the 2f marker Knighted suddenly clocked on to what he needed to do, got himself balanced and found another gear. A couple of rivals weakened quickly out of it but Tight Lines came sweeping down the stands side to grab the lead. Knighted initially looked one paced and was down by 3/4 length. Kevin was hard at work and once Knighted saw he had someone to aim at he began to rally. The complexion of the race changed once again and the leader now looked under threat as Knighted started to claw back the advantage.
Heading down into the final furlong and Knighted pulled alongside Tight Lines. Now he was hitting top gear and started to dominate. In full flow he began to assert and with none of his rivals able to match his powerful finish the race seemed destined to go to the bay. With every stride he was pulling out more and pulling further clear. The final 1/2 furlong was all about how far and Kevin ensured that Knighted was kept up to his work. Striding out, the further he went the further he pulled away from his rivals. Crossing the line he opened up a dominant 1 3/4 length advantage to win a shade cosily.
In the end this was a strong performance and showed that Knighted is still learning. Kevin rode him with great confidence but it seems as though in future a lead would suit the bay a lot better. Once under pressure and realising he had a battle on his hands, Knighted found more and powered clear once on top. It took him a while to get going but this may due to inexperience and with racing he will learn. He is a very nice horse and looks capable of performing in the top 3yr old handicaps over a mile. He stayed very well and maybe one day he could well get a little further, but he is still a work in progress and this could be the confidence boost to help him fulfil his potential.