'Illustrious' success crowns Knight double
ADMISSION may have been free at Ascot yesterday but there is no such handout of the course's better prizes.
Each one is strongly contested, which is why the double saddled by William Knight would have kept him awake last night.
Knight's brace was topped by King Of Dixie, who resisted the late thrust of Cityscape in the listed race over a mile. And it was tailed by Illustrious Blue, who battled to a hard-fought victory in the Group Three Sagaro Stakes over two miles. The evergreen seven-year-old has been around for longer than Knight has held a licence.
Knight is in his fifth season at his yard in Sussex. Illustrious Blue has been with him from the start. He has taken Knight to Dubai and Istanbul but, returned to home soil, the horse simultaneously delivered a career-best and the best day in Knight's fledgling career.
On a day when betting odds were trialled in decimal form, no fractions complicated his starting price. It was just a plain, old-fashioned upset at 16/1 before a crowd that more than doubled in size on last year's paying gate of 8,257. An eye-opening 19,215 saw Illustrious Blue win for a trainer who had never previously saddled a winner at Ascot.
The atmosphere at Ascot was pregnant with talk of the imminent classics, yet one development spoke for itself. A flurry of cash for Pollenator caused her odds for Sunday's English 1,000 Guineas to tumble. The move was clearly prompted by events at Richard Hannon's stable earlier in the day.
Sure enough, details soon filtered through that Pollenator had excelled in her last piece of work.Hannon has his team in blistering form, especially on the juvenile front. Further evidence was delivered by Zebedee, who breezed to his second victory from as many starts.
Hannon said that Canford Cliffs, the stable's front-line English 2,000 Guineas candidate, had shaped encouragingly when the free-running colt was asked to gallop in behind horses on Sunday. He added that Canford Cliffs' ability to see out a mile was the burning question.
John Dunlop, who trains Elusive Pimpernel, the 2,000 Guineas second favourite, said that his horse completed his preparation without a hitch. Win or lose on Saturday, however, Dunlop says that Elusive Pimpernel is most unlikely to be aimed at the Derby.
Epsom is definitely on Henry Cecil's mind, although in his case, it is the Oaks that preoccupies him. The Newmarket trainer introduced a third contender for the fillies' classic at Ascot when Aviate was a ready winner of the conditions' event over eight furlongs.
Meanwhile, the Oaks baton passes to Principal Role, who runs in Sunday's Pretty Polly Stakes, and Timepiece, who is scheduled to run in the Lingfield Oaks Trial.
"They are three nice fillies," Tom Queally, who has ridden them all in the past two weeks, said. (© The Times, London)