Knight sparkles as Dunlop gets set for his Derby debut
The name Dunlop is synonymous with Epsom but it will be John Dunlop's youngest son, Harry, who will be a welcome new face when he makes his Classic debut there in three weeks' time after Knight To Behold ran out an impressive three-and-a-quarter lengths winner over Aidan O'Brien's odds-on shot Kew Gardens in the Betfred Derby Trial at Lingfield yesterday.
The Sea The Stars colt, who was second and first on his two starts last year, made all the running under Richard Kingscote and opened up an eight-length lead at the top of the hill. Though he needed a slap down the shoulder to help guide him round the bend, he soon got the hang of it and when Ryan Moore and the rest of the field decided it was time to start reeling him in as they straightened up for home, it soon became clear that Kingscote had more horse under him than they did.
Knight To Behold was given a quote of 16/1 for Epsom but given that Dunlop, who trains at Windsor House in Lambourn, has little to work him with at home, one can assume he will come on enormously for the run as well as for the experience.
There might be some who say the jockey nicked this race but he was on the best horse and if there is any doubt about the favourite, Saxon Warrior's stamina, then the homebred belonging to Neil Jones will be out to exploit it at Epsom. Dunlop, whose father won the Derby twice, with Shirley Heights and Erhaab, and whose brother Ed has won two Oaks with Ouija Board and Snow Fairy, said the Derby would be the colt's next stop.
"He was bred to improve from two to three and his owner said this was what he was designed to do," he explained. "Of course you dream of winning the Derby. His work was nice and Richard felt he had strengthened up a lot over the winter but we're not Aidan O'Brien so until you run them in a trial it is difficult to know how good they are.
"Today was a bit of a weird race - I thought he was bound to get swallowed up but he was going clear again at the finish. I need to talk to the owner, who is in America, but hopefully we'll go for the Derby and maybe take him to Breakfast With The Stars [May 22, when Derby horses have a public canter at Epsom] for a look first."
Kingscote said: "He's a proper horse. He showed a nice attitude. I was very pleased and I think he'll have learned plenty coming round that turn. It was a good learning curve for him."
Dunlop's Lambourn colleague, Clive Cox, won the Betfred Mobile Oaks Trial with the 5-1 shot Perfect Clarity, who overcame greenness to beat Cecchini by a length and a quarter. It earned her a quote of 20-1 for the Oaks.
She joined O'Brien runner Flattering two furlongs out and was getting on top when her jockey, Adam Kirby, dropped his whip. Moore, on Flattering, sportingly threw his away at the same time but Perfect Clarity galloped on strongly under hands and heels and was always holding the runner-up.
Cox is no stranger to Group One success but a Classic has so far eluded him. When he won this trial 10 years ago with Miracle Seeker she went on to finish down the field in the Oaks but Kirby felt Perfect Clarity was well balanced.
"She's an easy mover who has the speed to travel and a turn of foot," he explained. "The [Epsom] track won't be a problem."
At the Curragh, Bye Bye Baby waved the opposition a fond farewell by running them into the ground with an all-the-way win in the Plusvital Irish EBF Blue Wind Stakes.
Seamie Heffernan put 1lb overweight on the Aidan O'Brien-trained filly but it made no difference as she powered home in this Group Three heat over a mile and a quarter.
Bye Bye Baby (11-4) pulled out more when challenged to score by two lengths from Jaega, the even-money favourite.
Bye Bye Baby was slashed to 14-1 from 33-1 with Paddy Power for the Investec Oaks.
"You'd be delighted with that and she came forward lovely from Navan," said O'Brien.
"She's a very straightforward filly and I couldn't be happier. She'll go to Epsom next. She's very straightforward, very uncomplicated and stays well. She's a very well-bred filly, too. Sea Fox (40-1) was third and Sabador (9-1) fourth.
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