Wednesday 29 January 2020

Somersby to light up Knight

Henrietta Knight was cheerful after her first hurdles winner of the season Photo: Getty Images
Henrietta Knight was cheerful after her first hurdles winner of the season Photo: Getty Images

Alan Lee

FOR Henrietta Knight and Sam Thomas, the glory days must sometimes seem a distant memory. In a winter of lean pickings, the celebrity profile of the Gold Cup winners has faded faster than the photographs on their walls.

A sport with too few personalities would welcome revivals for both and, yesterday, they had reasons to be cheerful. For Knight, it came at Towcester through her first hurdles winner of the season, for Thomas a fluent novice chase win at Wincanton.

Moreover, the former schoolmistress and the son of two head teachers were united in anticipation of a bigger day to come. Tomorrow at Doncaster, Knight's new flagship horse resumes his unbeaten chasing career, while Thomas is reunited with a horse that could finally ignite his nascent partnership with Tom George.

It is scarcely original to report that Knight is nervous over the reappearance of Somersby. Something would be profoundly wrong if she was not, such is her anxious nature. This horse, though, animates her like none since the wonder that was Best Mate.

Benmore Boy's Towcester win was only Knight's ninth of a season in which she languishes outside the top 40 trainers. Somersby, though, has the capacity to restore her to the limelight.

Third to Go Native in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last March, Somersby has won both starts over fences imposingly. Knight, having initially declared he could go to Cheltenham for the Arkle Trophy fresh, will now give him a further test in the Lightning Novices Chase.

"He'll be up against Mad Max, Woolcombe Folly and others, so it will be a very good race," Knight said yesterday.

Knight was anxious that Tony McCoy should keep the ride, an opinion she would not have altered after watching his implacable efforts on a disobliging Wincanton odds-on shot, Topsham Belle, yesterday. Even by his standards, it was some ride.

McCoy, though, is claimed to ride at Sandown and thus, unavailable for both Somersby and Captain Cee Bee, whose Arkle credentials will be re-examined at Naas tomorrow if his trainer Eddie Harty is satisfied with the ground after walking the course today.

Paul Moloney, who rode Somersby to his first chase win and partnered Benmore Boy yesterday, has been booked to deputise in a role that could remain his if, as expected, McCoy must ride Captain Cee Bee at Cheltenham.

Thomas scored with the progressive Green Belt Elite yesterday. Trained by his former boss, Venetia Williams, it was just the 22nd winner of the term for Thomas, who is now intent on a different two-mile target tomorrow.

Tartak, seventh when trying the three miles of the King George at Christmas, steps back markedly in distance for the valuable Blue Square Handicap Chase. "I think it will suit him down to the ground, because it will be run at such a pace," the jockey said. (© The Times, London)

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