Tag Archive for: Knight Salute

Pied Piper appeal against Aintree demotion fails

An appeal against the demotion of Gordon Elliott’s Pied Piper in the Grade One Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree has been dismissed by an independent panel.

The horse and Milton Harris’ Knight Salute were initially regarded to have dead-heated in the two-mile-one-furlong affair, but a stewards’ inquiry was then called into interference suffered by Knight Salute over the final flight.

Pied Piper, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Davy Russell, drifted towards the left on the approach to the last hurdle, straying into the path of Paddy Brennan and Knight Salute and forcing them off their line.

Brennan was pushed left for three strides before pulling his whip through into his left hand and straightening his mount, who then rallied to the line and passed the post exactly level with Pied Piper.

The stewards later chose to demote Pied Piper as a result of the interference, making Knight Salute the outright winner of the race despite Brennan stating explicitly that his chances had not been hampered.

Andrew and Gemma Brown, owners of Pied Piper under the Caldwell Construction banner, opted to appeal the demotion and were represented by Rory Mac Neice as the British Horseracing Authority case was put forward by Louis Weston.

A three-person panel comprising of HH Philip Curl, Ian Stark OBE and Steve Winfield heard evidence and submissions from both parties, with Russell appearing virtually from Nashville ahead of his ride aboard Nicky Henderson’s Pistol Whipped at Percy Warner Park on Saturday.

After a brief deliberation the panel chose to dismiss the appeal and adhere to the initial findings of the stewards’ inquiry, leaving Knight Salute the winner of the race and Pied Piper the runner-up.

Weston argued that as the two horses were inseparable at the finish, any interference at all must be considered to have had an impact on the final result.

Knight Salute ridden by Paddy Brennan (right) and Pied Piper ridden by Davy Russell
Knight Salute ridden by Paddy Brennan (right) and Pied Piper ridden by Davy Russell (David Davies/PA)

He said: “This was a dead heat, all you need to find is that he’s (Knight Salute) gone one blade of grass further, that he’s been checked for a millisecond and he’s been unable to take the momentum forward that he wanted.

“That’s what the stewards said and they were right.”

Brennan maintained the same stance that he took in the immediate stewards’ inquiry, stressing that he had been intending to mount a late challenge and head for the rail and that therefore an incident that halted his momentum some way from the line and pushed him towards the rail was not a hinderance.

“What I said on the day is exactly how I feel today, nothing’s changed, I felt I had a fair crack at it and that’s the way it was,” he told the panel.

“I wanted to play my cards as late as possible because I didn’t want to help Davy Russell, getting upsides him before the last wouldn’t be a help for me.

Paddy Brennan and Davy Russell congratulate one another after the race in question
Paddy Brennan and Davy Russell congratulate one another after the race in question (Steven Paston/PA)

“I was always going to have to switch, either to the left or to the right, obviously I wanted the rail so Davy’s horse having a look at the last forced me to go there and I was happy to have the rail.”

Mac Neice’s submission revolved around the suggestion that Pied Piper was prone to idling when alone in front and only began to race in earnest when joined in the final strides by Knight Salute.

It was this locking of horns, Mac Neice put forward, that benefited Pied Piper and ultimately won him the race, not the inconvenience Brennan suffered at the last.

He told the panel: “The problem with Knight Salute was not what happened at the last, it was that Pied Piper rallied when Knight Salute was challenging.

“Far from being hindered, Mr Brennan said what happened at the last made absolutely no difference to him, he was waiting until after the last anyway.

Pied Piper jumping across Knight Salute at the last hurdle
Pied Piper jumping across Knight Salute at the last hurdle (Nigel French/PA)

“Cat and mouse was how he put it, he was content to gain the advantage of the rail, which requires him to go to the left.”

Russell lamented his ride on Pied Piper, telling the panel he had hit the front far too early and that what won him the race was not Knight Salute’s impediment but his eventual ability to rally on the line.

He said: “What has happened in these circumstances is that one rider has given their horse a fantastic ride and one rider has given their horse a very, very poor ride. Paddy Brennan has excelled, I have not been shown in my greatest light.

“I want someone to come and join me because I know he’s going to idle, I’m getting no response from my horse and he’s not giving me everything he’s got.

“The stick is not making any difference to him. I thought I was going to get beaten and passed but when Mr Brennan’s horse came into my horse’s eye line, he saw and responded and then battled back to the line.”

Milton Harris aiming to better ‘phenomenal’ season

The names at the top of the National Hunt trainers’ championship may be familiar, but one of the stories of the jumps season has been the re-emergence of Milton Harris.

Harris amassed 172 winners over a 10-year period before filing for bankruptcy in 2011 and having his licence removed by the British Horseracing Authority.

Following seven years in the doldrums, Harris returned to the training fold in 2018, but having saddled just 30 winners in his first three seasons back on the gallops, it is this campaign where Harris has catapulted himself back into the headlines.

A career-best season has seen Harris earn £596,701 in prize money and although he fell agonisingly short of his £600,000 target, the handler can take comfort from the fact his stable star Knight Salute provided him with his first Grade One success at Aintree.

Randox Grand National Festival 2022 – Opening Day – Aintree Racecourse
Knight Salute provided Milton Harris with his first Grade One victory at Aintree (Steven Paston/PA)

The consistent juvenile, who won six of his seven starts for Harris in the 2021-22 season, bounced back from a disappointing showing in the Triumph Hurdle to force a dead-heat with Pied Piper in the Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle, only to be subsequently awarded the race in the Stewards’ room, a result which is subsequently subject to appeal.

“He’s been wonderful, the Irish have appealed the Aintree decision, which to be honest won’t really effect us other than a bit financially if they are successful,” explained Harris

“I feel a bit sorry for him because he probably never gets the credit he deserves. He’s been an absolute star and won six races out of seven and picked up our first Grade One.

“He disappointed at Cheltenham, but I give him the benefit of doubt there as the ground wasn’t right. He’s a proper warrior.”

Although the Grade One victory was an obvious high for the Sutton Veny handler, Harris is also proud of his string’s consistency throughout the season which has come, Knight Salute aside, without a plethora of superstars amongst his ranks.

“The main thing about this year for me is our strike rate, we’re up at 22 percent and for a yard of our size, which without Knight Salute, is probably just running in handicaps, is phenomenal.

“We’ve also done exceptionally well with our bumper horses and we finished the season above 20 percent. If you look at the stats the only yards that normally do that are the ones with lots of good novices and good horses like Nicky (Henderson) and Paul (Nicholls), its normally very hard to get over 20 percent.”

Paddy Brennan has been a man Harris has called upon on the big occasion and has partnered Knight Salute in five of his seven outings. But when Brennan has been otherwise engaged, the Wiltshire-based handler takes great pride in the opportunities he has given to some of the younger members of the weighing room and has been delighted to see three of the jockeys he uses thrive this season.

“This season, we’ve had three jockeys that we use – Mitch Bastyan, Kevin Jones and Harry Reed – all ride their claims out,  and that gives me a lot of pleasure. They drive me mad jockeys, but it’s tough love here, they might get a telling off now and again, but its only because I want them to do well and win,” said Harris.

Huntingdon Racecourse – Tuesday October 5th
Harry Reed, here riding Khan at Huntingdon, has been a jockey Milton Harris has regularly called upon (Mike Egerton/PA)

Some may ask how Harris has managed to change his fortunes around, but the handler, who recorded 56 winners in total in the 2021-22 jumps season, is keen to stress there has been no magic wand and just a combination of good old-fashioned graft, mixed in with a little rub of the green.

He continued: “The horses have been healthy and have run well all season. We’ve perhaps had better horses than in the past and that is down to the owners who have supported me, and a lot of credit has to go to the staff – we’ve got good staff. But there’s no magic formula, just hard work and a bit of luck.”

Refusing to rest on his laurels, Harris is already busy hatching a plan on how to better the season’s efforts next term and believes having success over the larger obstacles could be key to climbing the next step on the training ladder.

He said: “This year sets the bar high for next season, but that’s how its supposed to be if you want to keep on improving, and we’ll aim to beat this year’s numbers next season.

“We’ll have a lot more horses, I would say perhaps better-quality horses, and some that you won’t have seen yet, as well as going out and restocking with some novices if possible over the summer.

“Ironically, we don’t have any real chasers in the yard with setting up from scratch, which is where the real money is, and I think next year we’ll have a few more for fences.”

Not shy of naming names, the 63-year-old highlighted one of his charges that has been out of action in 2021-22, as well as a couple of his star bumper performers from this campaign as a trio of names to look out for next season.

“One of our best horses, Stimulating Song, has been out for the season, so we’ve got him to look forward to. At the start of the season he would have been our most talented horse, but he’s had a knock and he’ll come back, go novice chasing, and I have really high hopes for him,” stated Harris.

“Mullenbeg jumps really well so she’ll run in novice hurdles next year and she is one to look forward to, one who I’d hope would take high rank.

“We try not to be bad losers and I was delighted it was Oliver (Sherwood) that beat us the other day, but his filly was getting 15lb off Mullenbeg and in hindsight that looks a big enough ask for our horse, and before that she bumped into a nice horse of Nicky Henderson’s (Luccia) when the ground beat her at Sandown.”

Festival Trials Day – Cheltenham Races
Mullenbeg, winning here at Cheltenham, is set to go hurdling next season (David Davies/PA)

“Oh, and don’t forget Rosy Redrum. Don’t give up on her, she’s just a little ground dependent and she’s much better than she showed at Aintree.”

Buoyed buy the success of 2021-22, Harris is keen to quickly replenish his stock ahead of the new campaign and highlighted the summer jumping months of May, June and July as an area he is eager to target now the scoreboard has been reset.

He explained: “We’ll buy a lot more juveniles again, I enjoy the juvenile hurdlers and bringing young horses through.

“We only had three winners in the first three months of last season and that’s something I want to tackle in May, June and July. We need to get a few on the scoresheet early so we have a healthy start by the time the main season starts in October. I think we’ve got the stock to hopefully do that.”

The season may have drawn to a close, but there is a feeling that in Sutton Veny, Harris is only just getting started.

Knight Salute lands dramatic Juvenile Hurdle after stewards’ inquiry

Knight Salute was awarded a dramatic Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle by the stewards at Aintree after initially dead-heating with Pied Piper

Pied Piper, third in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, was sent off the 10-11 favourite to get back to winning ways and certainly brought the strongest form to the table.

Knight Salute (14-1) has been a revelation this season for his resurgent trainer Milton Harris, but had finished well beaten at Cheltenham, some 17 lengths behind Pied Piper.

That looked an outlier, though, as prior to that he had won his other five races this season, including two Grade Twos, and he was right back to his best on this occasion.

Paddy Brennan had clearly decided to play his hand last of all, and he tracked Davy Russell on the Gordon Elliott-trained market leader for the whole race.

Approaching the last Russell must have felt he had matters in hand as he had not asked a single question – but Pied Piper did not jump the final flight well and gave Knight Salute a nudge, which caused a stewards’ inquiry to be called after the long wait for the initial photo to be announced.

Despite the coming together at the last, Knight Salute was able to edge in front on the run-in, only for Pied Piper to battle back and claim a share of the spoils right on the line – or so it seemed.

A lengthy inquiry followed and even though Brennan told the stewards he felt the contact did not affect the result and he was happy with the outcome, the officials disagreed which meant Harris had landed his first Grade One winner to cap a great season.

The Boodles winner Brazil checked out on the run to the last and was beaten 12 lengths back in third.

Harris said: “He cost 14 grand and gives everyone a bit of optimism.

“Brennan is his own man and said thank you for sticking with him, and he didn’t knock the horse about when his chance had gone in the Triumph.

“He could run anything down, this horse, but the juveniles are still 15lb below the Champion Hurdle horses.

“That’s why we were going to take him for a race in America later in the year with a view to possibly selling him.”

He added on ultimately getting the race after the inquiry: “It doesn’t sit well with me, it’s not the way I like to play sport.

“But that’s the rules, and if the rules say that – I just feel sorry for the second, I thought it was a good battle and it’s a shame to see someone demoted.”

Paddy Brennan (left) and Davy Russell after the dead-heat was announced
Paddy Brennan (left) and Davy Russell after the dead-heat was announced (David Davies/PA)

Speaking before the verdict of the stewards, Elliott said: “Davy didn’t say much, he just said he hit the front too soon and if he had his time back he’d have taken his time more.

“He followed Mark (Walsh, on Brazil) as he thought he was the horse to beat. He went by him and then idled and pulled up in front. Davy is raging with himself, but that’s horseracing.

“I’ll take a dead-heat in a Grade One any day of the week. We’ve hit the crossbar a lot over the last two weeks.

“Both horses ran great races. Full credit to Milton Harris and his team – they’ve done a good job with their horse and our team did a great job with ours.

“A dead-heat is a fair result and I’m happy. This horse will go straight to (Royal) Ascot now.”

Harris keeping fingers crossed Silver Shade can sneak into Boodles field

Milton Harris is still hoping Silver Shade will sneak into the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham next week, as he believes him to be “very well handicapped” and “a player”.

The Warminster handler is concerned his recent Fontwell success may not see him rated highly enough to get into what will be a compressed handicap for the extended two-mile race commonly known as the Fred Winter.

“I love Silver Shade and I think he is very well handicapped,” said Harris.

“But I would say he won’t get in the Boodles. If he gets in, he is a player. But I don’t know – the weights are going to go up at the top.

“I suspect we will end up with 10st 8lb or 10st 9lb and we won’t get in. I would be delighted if he did. I think he’d be a player – I don’t see him being rated a 120 horse.”

Currently a 33-1 shot for the Boodles, should he not get in, Harris will redirect him for what he hopes will be a prep race for Aintree on Monday week.

Harris said: “I need to speak to the owner. There is a juvenile at Stratford on the Monday and that is often very competitive race, as the Irish sometimes bring one over.

“He will have an entry for that, but I might just go and try and win a novice with a penalty with the four-year-old allowance.

“Then I’m hoping he makes up into an Aintree juvenile, as once you get into the 130s, he might just be amongst that crowd.”

Harris confirmed that unbeaten hurdler Knight Salute will head to the Triumph Hurdle.

As one of Britain’s leading hopes in the market at 12-1 behind Vauban, Pied Piper and Fil Dor, Knight Salute won a Grade Two at Cheltenham in November and followed up by taking the Adonis Hurdle in great style at Kempton.

Knight Salute on course for the Triumph Hurdle
Knight Salute on course for the Triumph Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

“Knight salute is going to the Triumph, as definite as definite can be at this stage,” said Harris.

“The clear plan is to go for the Triumph, I don’t see there is any benefit in carrying top-weight in the Boodles.

“I would love to say he has sparkled. The Tuesday before he went to Kempton and won last time, he actually did work well, but he is not a good workhorse.

“He is unbeaten in five and won three Grade Twos and they all keep telling me he can’t win. We haven’t met any of the Irish horses yet and if they are as good as they say they are, then we could finish fourth and still run a blinder.

“He will do very little between now and next week. We will probably work him this Saturday.

“He won’t do a lot, he doesn’t need to, he is a very professional horse and we just need to stay sound and healthy.”

Meanwhile, Harris could bypass Cheltenham with Mullenbeg, who is one of the leading British hopes for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

The mare is unbeaten in two starts since arriving from Ireland in December, including a fine effort when landing a Listed Cheltenham mares’ bumper in January.

However, Harris, who has 43 winners his fourth season since returning to the training ranks, is pondering the possibility of running her in the Listed EBF Mares’ Bumper Final at Sandown on Saturday.

“Mullenbeg may go to Sandown on Saturday,” he added. “She is going to be favourite for the mares’ at Sandown and 14-1 or 16-1 against the boys at Cheltenham.

“My thought process, subject to owners’ approval, is to go to Sandown then go to Aintree with her. We will make a decision on Monday, once we have seen the entries and discussed it.

“She is lovely. She has a turn of foot, which you don’t often see with some three-mile Irish pointers.”

Rosy Redrum gets all the allowances in the Champion Bumper
Rosy Redrum gets all the allowances in the Champion Bumper (Simon Milham/PA)

Harris will likely rely on Rosy Redrum in the Champion Bumper.

She won convincingly at Wincanton before staying on nicely, having been given plenty to do, to grab second spot in a hot Newbury bumper last time.

“Rosy Redrum definitely runs,” said Harris. “She is a lovely big filly, but nothing went right for her last time.

“Rosy gets all the allowances – 17lb – which is why she will go to Cheltenham. I’ve always thought she is Listed class on the Flat, but whether she is good enough to beat the Irish horses, I don’t know. Those allowances will help her, though.

“In two weeks’ time, we’ll all be going, ‘Who’d have thought it?’ – but it will either all have gone well or all have gone badly! We’re looking forward to it.”

Knight Salute passes Kempton test for Cheltenham

Knight Salute will head to the Triumph Hurdle unbeaten over obstacles after landing the Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle in good style at Kempton Park.

The Milton Harris-trained four-year-old has been asked a few questions in his short career, but has answered every one of them and on this occasion he had to fend off the challenge of Teddy Blue, who held every chance until blundering through the last.

Paddy Brennan’s mount travelled smoothly throughout, but increased the pace early in the straight, with his rider admitting: “I knew it was going to be cat and mouse and I was keen to be the cat!”

Knight Salute, who gained his fifth successive success for the Four Candles Partnership by three and a quarter lengths, was left as a 12-1 chance with Betfair and Paddy Power, who were seemingly not as impressed as his jockey.

Brennan added: “For the first two furlongs I was going as fast as I could comfortably go and that was really going to play in my favour and with respect to that, I probably got to the front a bit too soon.

“He is probably the quickest horse I have ever ridden over hurdles. He is so accurate. He is small, but he knows his limits. He is very, very quick from one side of a hurdle to the other.

“He stays very well and you will get there a bit soon on him, but I know he stays, so I’m keen to keep the race going and Cheltenham suits him.”

The winning trainer admitted Knight Salute’s build-up to the two-mile Grade Two contest had not been smooth sailing.

He explained: “Ten days ago, he had a little cough and a splutter and while he scoped OK, he came back on Tuesday and worked like a demon. That put me off a bit, because he doesn’t do that.

“He is a good horse. I’m sure the Irish horses are good horses, but every single one of the first three in the betting has been beaten – we have not been beat yet. I think he just does enough.

“I think we will be better on better ground. I’m not sure we will beat them, but they will have a race from the last.

“He will probably work once, maybe twice. He is a professional. He doesn’t do a lot. He’s easy. I’d like to take a lot of credit, but there is not much!”

Knight Salute seeking to underline Triumph claims at Kempton

Knight Salute will take on 10 rivals as he bids to maintain his unbeaten record in the Coral Adonis Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday.

The resurgence of Milton Harris has been one of the stories of the season. He has already surpassed his previous best of 32 victories in the 2010-11 season, registering 41 winners thus far.

Thereafter, the trainer suffered a seven-year spell in the wilderness after declaring himself bankrupt.

However, he got his licence back just over three years ago and has steadily built up his new base at Warminster, and is heading to Cheltenham with a handful of big guns to fire.

His stellar campaign has been spearheaded by Knight Salute and the four-year-old bids for a five-timer over hurdles in the two-mile contest, hoping to rubber-stamp his Triumph Hurdle ticket.

Though having his first outing since defeating another leading British hope, Porticello, in the Summit Hurdle at Doncaster in early December, Harris feels the son of Sir Percy is the one they all have to beat.

“Knight Salute is in good form. He has done everything we have asked of him,” he said.

“The ground looks like it will dry out a bit, conditions look like they are in his favour and while it is a hot race, we are top-rated and I think they will be more worried about us than we are about them.”

Knight Salute will take on Impulsive One, whom he had just over a length behind in third at Doncaster.

Nicky Henderson has a number of good Kempton chances
Nicky Henderson has a number of good Kempton chances (Tim Goode/PA)

Nicky Henderson’s runner franked that form when winning his third race from five over hurdles at Mussleburgh last time.

“He is in good form. He is a Flat-ground horse and he’s a good-ground horse. He won well at Musselburgh,” said the Seven Barrows handler.

“This is a good race for him and he will go to Liverpool rather than Cheltenham after the Adonis. We’re hopeful he will acquit himself favourably.”

Paul Nicholls is represented by Rubaud, who makes his British debut, and Pleasant Man, who was a 95-rated handicapper with Roger Charlton. He makes his hurdling debut on his first start since September.

Nicholls told Betfair: “Both of mine are running in this race on the basis that if one of them wins then they can go on to better things like Zarkandar in 2011. If not they will be looked after until next season because I don’t want them losing their maiden status in an ordinary novice hurdle.

Pleasant Man (centre) on his to victory on the Flat at Haydock
Pleasant Man (centre) on his to victory on the Flat at Haydock (David Davies/PA)

“Pleasant Man won three times on the Flat, is rated 95 and on his two-year-old debut beat Pied Piper who is one of the favourites for the Triumph Hurdle. He has been with us since November, shows a fair bit at home, has done plenty of schooling and wears cheek pieces as he did when winning his last race for Roger Charlton in September.

“Rubaud stays well, he won impressively at Saint-Cloud in July and has been with us since the autumn. He handles soft ground and like Pleasant Man has had plenty of practice over our hurdles at home.

“There is no significance in the jockey bookings as Bryony Frost rides regularly for Chris Giles, the part-owner of Rubaud who we are trying in a tongue tie.”

In a deep renewal, their rivals comprise Big Boy Bobby (Alan King), Teddy Blue (Gary Moore) and The Famous Five (Venetia Williams), along with Graystone (Lucy Wadham), Moka De Vassy (Jane Williams) and Iroko (Oliver Greenall).

Pic D’Orhy and Harry Cobden bid to bounce back in the Pendil Novices' Chase
Pic D’Orhy and Harry Cobden bid to bounce back in the Pendil Novices’ Chase (Steven Paston/PA)

There are two more Grade Two contests on a cracking seven-race card, with the Coral Pendil Novices’ Chase attracting five runners.

They are headed by the Nicholls-trained Pic D’Orhy, who bids to bounce back from a lacklustre display behind L’Homme Presse in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

“He choked late on in the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown last time on testing ground,” said Nicholls.

“He needs a flatter track and better ground which he gets at Kempton. He is basically a very good jumper and I’m hoping to see him back at his best with conditions in his favour in a race we have won in three of the past five years.”

Minella Drama (Donald McCain) and Fantastic Lady (Henderson) both won last time out, while Millers Bank (Alex Hales) and Goa Lil (Nigel Twiston-Davies) complete the select line-up.

Five of the eight who line up in the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle won when last seen, with the Gary Moore-trained Shallwehaveonemore a warm order to follow up his 20-length success at Sandown last month.

The Chris Gordon-trained Aucunrisque bids for a hat-trick after scoring by 10 lengths at Wincanton, as does Frere D’Armes, who impressed in winning at the same west country track for Dan Skelton last month.

“Obviously he is taking a big step up in grade and he is a novice,” said Skelton.

“We just thought we’d find out where we stand.

“The track is grand, the trip is fine, the ground is fine. There are no excuses. We’ll know where we stand.”

One of those who failed to win last time was five-year-old Russian Ruler, who was third on his hurdling debut at Doncaster when favourite.

Henderson said: “I think this is a really, really, really nice horse. I thought he was going to be one of our star novices, but things haven’t quite gone his way.

“I’m going to put him in good race like this and if he wins, he wins. If he doesn’t, he’ll be one for next year. He is a lovely horse.”

Shallwehaveonemore is favourite for the Dovecote Novices' Chase
Shallwehaveonemore is favourite for the Dovecote Novices’ Chase (Steven Paston/PA)

Iceo (Nicholls), Moriko De Vassy (Tom Symonds), Galore Desassences (Nigel Hawke) and Legionar (Harris) are among those hoping to land the valuable two-mile contest.

Though Legionar is the rank outsider with most bookmakers, Harris insists he should not be overlooked.

“In time, he will be better than Knight Salute, I should imagine. He is a good horse, a proper horse, and he will keep progressing. He is one to keep an eye on.”

Harris seeking St Moritz highlight with Mordred

Trainer Milton Harris is enjoying a superb time at present and proved he is a man for all seasons, saddling his latest winner on the snow at St Moritz.

The Sutton Veny handler is set for a busy few weeks preparing his Cheltenham Festival hopefuls, yet there was still time to oversee Mordred’s overseas challenge with a bigger prize back in Switzerland in a few weeks in mind – the Grand Prix of St Moritz.

The annual White Turf St Moritz event has been held on the frozen lake of the Graubünden in the exclusive Swiss Alps resort since 1907.

Mordred booked his ticket for a big race in a fortnight when making all under Sibylle Vogt to take the Grosser Preis Longines, beating three rivals on Sunday.

Harris said: “It is not cold enough. It needs to be colder as they shortened the races from a safety point of view.

“Mordred was bought specifically with this race in mind. I have been coming here for many years and I come with German trainer Christian von der Recke, and I’ve always tried to target the race.

“The key with this horse is that he is a decent Flat horse and he has no penalties. The penalties are based on the previous 12 months prize money, so he gets all the allowances and it makes a massive difference at this altitude.

“They shortened Sunday’s race to a four-and-half-furlong race, but he is clearly a mile-and-a-quarter or a mile-and-a-half horse.

“Anyway, we won the race, which is a trial, and we expect him to be very competitive in the big race in two weeks’ time.”

Harris has a busy few weeks ahead with Knight Salute expected to take up an engagement in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton at the end of the month.

Last seen maintaining his unbeaten record over hurdles in the Grade Two Summit Hurdle at Doncaster, the form of that race was given a huge boost by the runner-up Porticello, who subsequently won the Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.

Harris also saddled impressive Kempton debutant scorer Silver Shade in the Finesse Hurdle at Cheltenham, but he was well beaten by the Gordon Elliott-trained Pied Piper.

“Knight Salute is in the Adonis, so will be back on Wednesday or Thursday,” said Harris.

“He has plenty of pace and (then) we saw Gordon’s horse (Pied Piper) at Cheltenham.

“I finished fifth and Silver Shade did not run his race. My horse is much better than that and we’ve done a few things with him since. Obviously Willie Mullins’ horse (Vauban) looks a nice horse and I suspect the Triumph Hurdle will be six Irish horses and me and Gary Moore (Porticello) trying to have a go.”

Harris expects to see a better Silver Shade next time
Harris expects to see a better Silver Shade next time (Steven Paston)

He went on: “Silver Shade was lethargic, he was a little bit distressed after the race. He had his wind tested and everything. That is not him. He will probably go to the Victor Ludorum at Haydock, although I do need to speak to the owner.

“I suspect he won’t go to the Triumph, he will probably go to the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle, but I’m not sure what will be top in there. The Irish could influence that. We haven’t got many horses in the 130s. The top one is rated 135.

“There is some logic into this being an average year, because unless they are paying 225,000 guineas, which Gordon paid (for Pied Piper), all the good three-year-olds are getting sold to Australia. That is the reality.

“Silver Shade beat Gordon’s horse on the Flat at Sandown (last year), so I think mine is a nice horse, I think you’ll see he’s better than he was last time.”

Mullenbeg landed a competitive Cheltenham bumper
Mullenbeg landed a competitive Cheltenham bumper (David Davies/PA)

Harris is pondering Festival options for two of his high-class mares.

Mullenbeg remains unbeaten after two starts having been an impressive winner of a competitive mares’ bumper at Cheltenham. Yet Harris is hopeful that another mare will show the ability which she has hinted at in her home work when she runs this week.

Harris added: “Mullenbeg won well at Cheltenham, but I have a filly at home, Rosy Redrum, that is better than her, but whether she is better just at home or not, we’ll see.

“She runs this week and she will either run at Huntingdon on Thursday or the Listed bumper at Newbury on Saturday.

“Mullenbeg’s obvious race is the mares’ hurdle at Aintree, but will Willie Mullins’ horses frighten everything else away in the bumper? Will it be a smaller than normal bumper with 10 or 12 runners? We just don’t know yet.”

Harris planning Adonis prep run for Triumph hope Knight Salute

Trainer Milton Harris is enjoying a fine season and with the results from all the big Triumph Hurdle trials over the Christmas period locked in, it is all smiles in Sutton Veny as Harris firms up plans for his Cheltenham Festival hope Knight Salute.

Last seen maintaining his unbeaten hurdles record in the Grade Two Summit Hurdle at Doncaster, the form of that race was given a huge boost when the runner-up Porticello hacked up in the Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.

Having momentarily contemplated switching Knight Salute to the level for his next outing, Harris has now revealed Knight Salute will go in search of further graded honours, pinpointing the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton for his pre-Festival tune-up.

Harris said: “We were going to run him on the Flat as a prep, but I think we’ve decided on the Adonis at Kempton.

“I spoke to AP McCoy about him actually and he thought Kempton would be a good place to go and he’s a quick horse who has won round there before.

“I know every time you run there’s a risk of injury, but he’s a fairly sensible lad and it’s hard for these juveniles in the second season when they go on to race in open company, so you’ve got to make hay with them while you can.”

Knight Salute was a winner at Cheltenham's November meeting
Knight Salute was a winner at Cheltenham’s November meeting (David Davies/PA)

Results over the festive period have got Harris dreaming of Cheltenham Festival glory and he is confident his charge has a fantastic chance of providing the Warminster handler with a first winner at March’s showpiece.

“Listen I don’t want to decry anyone else’s horse – Gary’s (Moore) horse is a very nice horse, but he will probably end up as a three-mile chaser. Same with Gordon Elliott’s horse (Fil Dor). He looks smashing, but looks more of a galloper that will benefit from plenty of cut.

“Whether or not decent ground on the last day at Cheltenham will suit them over our horse, only time will tell, but I would fancy our chances from the back of the last to the line with anybody.

“I mean they may be away and gone by the time we get to the last, but if we’re latched onto them going down to the last, then we’re a runner because I know we’ve got a quick horse,” the handler commented.

Jacamar was victorious at Kempton on Boxing Day
Jacamar was victorious at Kempton on Boxing Day (Steven Paston/PA)

Harris has saddled 32 winners this season and his good form continued on Boxing Day when Jacamar was a winner in front of the ITV cameras at Kempton.

The progressive chaser is set to put his own Festival credentials to the test when appearing at Prestbury Park on Trials Day.

“Cheltenham Trials Day is pencilled in and there are two races he’ll get an entry for. It’ll either be the two-and-a-half-mile novices’ chase or the Grade Three open handicap over the same trip, but we’ll have a look nearer the time and weigh everything up,” Harris said.

Milton Harris raises possibility of Flat prep for Knight Salute

Knight Salute could run on the Flat in preparation for a tilt at the Triumph Hurdle, trainer Milton Harris has suggested.

The exciting juvenile took his unbeaten run to four over timber when landing the Grade Two Summit Hurdle at Doncaster on Saturday.

Currently third-favourite for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, his Warminster handler still believes the son of Sir Percy, owned by the Four Candles Partnership, is a “good juvenile in an average year”.

“He has a mark of 75 on the Flat and he’ll win off that,” said Harris.

“I think a run around Kempton in February, three weeks before the Triumph, won’t do him any harm, and that will give him a bit of work.

“The alternative is to go to the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton at the end of February, but the Adonis has been a graveyard for Triumph Hurdle horses.”

He added: “Everyone knocks him a bit, but I think Knight Salute might be a good juvenile in an average year.

“Every so often, you’ll get some Triumph Hurdle winners who would never be placed in the next four Triumph Hurdles. With the greatest respect to Alan King and Katchit, was Katchit a good Champion Hurdle horse?

“But you can’t argue, as he won the Triumph Hurdle (in 2007) and the Champion Hurdle (2008).

“I see a little bit of Katchit in Knight Salute. Katchit wasn’t rated that high on the Flat, but he turned out to be a very good hurdler.”

Harris also revealed he was a little economical with the truth to jockey Paddy Brennan at Doncaster.

“When we got Knight Salute, he was always doing things in a little bit too much of a rush, hence the hood, and underneath that, the earplugs.

“Paddy wanted me to take the earplugs out after he won at Cheltenham, because he thought he just paused when he came to the last. I told him on Saturday that I had taken them out – but I hadn’t.

Jockey Paddy Brennan "needs to believe", according to Milton Harris
Jockey Paddy Brennan “needs to believe”, according to Milton Harris (Nigel French/PA)

“That’s because Paddy needs to believe. I have to tell him, ‘This will win, Paddy!’ – you want him to go there thinking he is invincible, because that is what he needs. I have known him since he was a young boy and he lives on the edge, even at the age of 40.

“And we’ll probably take the earplugs out come the Festival, should we get there. That’s the plan.”

Knight Salute may not be the only runner from the Sutton Veny yard at the Festival meeting if all goes to plan.

Harris said: “I have one at home who might be better than Knight Salute who has not run yet.

“Silver Shade was with Mark Johnston. He just looks a proper horse. He might go to Kempton on December 27 in an introductory hurdle. That is a sort of a plan.

“The difference is Knight Salute has done it on the track and we know he handles Cheltenham.”

Stimulating Song was a Cheltenham winner last season
Stimulating Song was a Cheltenham winner last season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

However, Harris revealed he has had to concede defeat with Stimulating Song, who has been sidelined since landing an intermediate hurdle at Cheltenham 13 months ago.

“Our best horse, Stimulating Song, is out for the season,” admitted Harris.

“We were hoping to get him back, as he might have been an Arkle horse – he is still with us, which is the main thing.

“He struck into himself at Cheltenham, so we gave him loads of time, but it is just not worth the risk, so we decided that he will come back next season. He is only six, so has time on his side.”

Knight Salute reaches the Summit at Doncaster

Knight Salute maintained his 100 per cent record over jumps when completing a four-timer in the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster.

The Milton Harris-trained three-year-old followed up his latest success in a Grade Two contest at Cheltenham with a gutsy display in what looked a very competitive race at the same level.

Porticello, the 6-4 favourite, set out to make all the running but his jumping needs improvement while Paddy Brennan kept Knight Salute towards the rear of a sedate pace in the early stages.

Knight Salute (4-1) moved into contention when the tempo quickened in the straight with three flights left and pulled clear after jumping the last to score by three-quarters of a length from Porticello. Impulsive One was a neck away third.

Knight Salute was cut to 12-1 from 20-1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Betfair and Paddy Power.

“It was harder today, the ground was deeper, I was committed down to the last I needed to wing it, I did, but he’s good,” said Brennan.

“It’s a £60,000 race thanks to the sponsors, a great bit of placement by Milton and a lovely race to win on a Saturday.”

As for what is next Brennan said: “It’s hard to say, we’ll let him do the talking on the track, It’s only going to get harder, but he’s earned enough money today to help towards Santa Clause.

“Milton’s doing well, he really believed in him. He rang me three times to tell me he was going to win”.

Owner Mark Adams added: “Everyone keeps putting a question mark over him, but what more can the horse have done. Every race you put in front of him, he runs well and he always gives a bit more each time.

“The Triumph is always the dream, any race at Cheltenham is a dream. Today was the big test to see where we go and after that run, why wouldn’t we!”

Harris said: “I’m delighted he’s answered the questions about the ground there. I’m not saying he loved it but he’s coped with it.

“He worked all over the horse that finished third today at Cheltenham (Galah) earlier in the week and I was very confident he would give his running and I told Paddy he would win.

“We’ll have to see what the handicapper does now, if he’s mid-130s then I was thinking maybe the Fred Winter, but there’s nothing to be frightened of at this stage.

“Obviously there might be a few smart ones still to come out, we might even have one or two ourselves, but you’d say he’s the best horse this side of the water so far. We’ll draw breath now, watch the race back and take a look in the new year.

“It’s great for the owners who are brilliant people and have been very loyal to me.”

Knight Salute out to stay on top in Summit

Milton Harris feels Knight Salute has improved at home as the unbeaten three-year-old heads for the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster on Saturday.

Wins at Sedgefield and Kempton were followed up by a smooth success in Grade Two company at Cheltenham’s November meeting, meaning he brings the strongest form into the contest.

Taking him on are Gary Moore’s French import Porticello, winner of a Listed event at Wetherby on his British debut, and Dan Skelton’s Too Friendly, who has been victorious in his two starts over hurdles to date.

Knight Salute in full flight
Knight Salute in full flight (David Davies/PA)

“You don’t have that many choices with a good juvenile when you’ve already won a Grade Two, so you have to carry a penalty,” said Harris.

“I’ve seen some people knocking the form of the juveniles this year, not just him, but what I would say is I’m sure people were knocking Katchit at this time of year when he was winning similar races and he didn’t turn out too bad.

“All he can do is keep winning and I’m convinced he’s improved at home since Cheltenham.

“We’ll know after this where we are going – it will either be the Fred Winter (Boodles), the Triumph or the pub!

“I’ve still got a couple of juveniles to come out yet and they’d be on a par with him. Our strike-rate might have dipped a bit in recent weeks, but we’re not a big yard, we’d only have 45 in training at any one time.

“Gary Moore’s is favourite and he beat one of mine (Genuflex) at Wetherby by four lengths. I’d like to think this lad is four lengths better than him.”

Magistrato was fourth behind Knight Salute at Cheltenham, but Paul Nicholls believes the Doncaster conditions and a pull in the weights could help to reverse that form.

He told Betfair: “He found the ground at Cheltenham quicker than ideal last time when he finished fourth, beaten less than three lengths, behind Knight Salute. He led on the home turn there and was only headed in the last half-furlong.

“Magistrato will be much happier with cut in the ground at Doncaster and now gets a handy 5lb from Knight Salute and Porticello on a galloping track that should play to his strengths.”

Harris leaning towards Doncaster date for Knight Salute

Milton Harris is favouring an outing at Doncaster on Saturday with Knight Salute – despite giving him an alternative entry at Cheltenham.

Bought out of Andrew Balding’s yard for the relatively modest sum of 14,000 guineas in July, the son of Sir Percy has since won three times over hurdles.

Knight Salute completed his hat-trick with a Grade Two win at Cheltenham last month and has the option of returning to Prestbury Park for another JCB Triumph Trial.

But while a final decision will not be made until later in the week, Harris is leaning towards the Grade Two bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle on Town Moor.

He said: “We’ve entered Knight Salute in both races, as have a lot of other people.

“If you’re asking me where we’re going to go, the answer is I don’t know. We’re forecast a wet week and I don’t know he won’t go on slow ground, but we don’t know he does either.

“I’ll talk to the owners and see. Our preference is Doncaster as he’d carry a 5lb penalty in a £60,000 race and at Cheltenham he’d carry a 7lb penalty in a £25,000 race.

“I’d say we’re likely to go to Doncaster, but all the options will be kept open.”

Knight Salute’s potential rivals at Doncaster include Gary Moore’s Wetherby scorer Porticello, Dan Skelton’s dual winner Too Friendly and Impulsive One from Nicky Henderson’s yard.

Threeunderthrufive could run at Doncaster on Saturday
Threeunderthrufive could run at Doncaster on Saturday (Tim Goode/PA)

The latter was thoroughly impressive on his first two starts over obstacles, but was no match for Knight Salute at Kempton in October.

The other Grade Two run on Doncaster’s Saturday card is the bet365 December Novices’ Chase.

The three-mile contest could see the Paul Nicholls-trained Threeunderthrufive and Kim Bailey’s Does He Know renew rivalry after finishing first and second at Cheltenham four weeks ago.

Warren Greatrex’s Emitom is also one of seven entries.

Summit bid on the horizon for Knight Salute

Milton Harris is targeting the Bet365 Summit Hurdle at Doncaster next month for exciting juvenile Knight Salute.

Unbeaten in three starts over hurdles, the Sir Percy three-year-old landed the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham earlier this month and is now being primed for the extended two-mile Grade Two event on December 11.

As short as 14-1 with Sky Bet for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the Warminster trainer insists he “wouldn’t swap mine for anything”.

Harris said on Tuesday: “Knight Salute schooled this morning. He has improved since Cheltenham.

“He is not sexy in terms that he is a big, strong beast like the ones that Paul Nicholls can buy for three hundred grand – he is not one of these lovely big horses – but he is efficient. He is very quick hurdler and he has got a turn of foot.

“I would imagine that is the route, but I am not convinced we won’t go on a bit of soft ground. Whether he wants winter ground at Lingfield is another matter.

“Doncaster doesn’t generally get bad ground. There will likely be four or five runners, there will be Gary Moore’s horse probably (Porticello), but Gary’s horse beat my horse, Genuflex, by three and three-quarter lengths in the Listed Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle at Wetherby and if that’s as good as he is, I wouldn’t be too scared, as Knight Salute is better than Genuflex.

“But, of course, in Gary’s defence, his looks a big, raw horse.

“You need a bit of luck in life and if you are John McEnroe and unlucky enough to be born in the same era as Bjorn Borg…so, is Knight Salute a good juvenile? I don’t know. He could be the best in just an OK year.

“There are, of course, the Irish horses, but Paul says he hasn’t got anything better than the one that finished fourth at Cheltenham (Magistrato). Dan (Skelton) has a couple, and his Too Friendly is all right, but listen, I wouldn’t swap mine for anything at this moment in time, anyway.”

Before that, the in-form Harris is looking forward to another busy weekend, with the lightly-raced Danny Whizzbang having his first run for the yard since transferring from Nicholls.

Harris said: “We run Danny Whizzbang in the Hennessy (Ladbrokes Trophy) at Newbury. He worked well this morning and the plan is to run unless something goes wrong.

“I’ve got a lovely bumper horse called Knowwhentoholdem, who won at Newton Abbot last month, and he will run somewhere at the weekend, and Jacamar will have his second start over fences. It’s nice to be back in this position.”

Knight Salute proves emotional winner for Milton Harris

Milton Harris improved his already impressive strike-rate for the new season and unearthed a serious Festival candidate as Knight Salute powered home in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Trained by Andrew Balding on the level, Knight Salute went regressed after winning on his second start – but is now three out of three over hurdles.

Upped in class to Grade Two company he was sent off a 9-2 chance, and with Paddy Brennan charting his typically wide route into the straight when the stagger evened itself out, Knight Salute was in front.

The favourite Magistrato found disappointingly little up the hill, leaving Saint Riquier to chase home the winner, who was a given a 20-1 quote for the championship event with Coral.

Harris returned to the training ranks in 2018, with the British Horseracing Authority having previously rejected his licence applications after he was declared bankrupt in 2011.

“It’s quite emotional really, because it’s been a tough road,” he said.

“He’s a good horse, he’s got a bit of pace and if there’s a better tactical rider in the weighing room than Paddy Brennan then I don’t know him.

“I said to him to be last man and I thought he’d got there too soon.

“We might go to something like the Adonis or we might just leave it to the spring. He looks like he’s all right.

“He was given a mark of 91 after his first two races on the Flat and he struggled, but Andrew Balding was very open with me and said he’s by Sir Percy out of an Unfuwain mare so he’s crying out for a trip.

“I said to Paddy if you get to the back of the last with them you’ll win because you’ll be quicker than the rest, and he was.”

He added: “I think I’ve won this race before in the past. This is my second go and life is like that sometimes. Some people aren’t lucky enough to get a second chance.

“We’ve got some nice horses. I’ve got some brilliant owners, but relative to the game they’ve got no money. This lad isn’t going to win the Gold Cup, but he might win a Triumph Hurdle.”

Paddy Brennan salutes the crowd on Bonttay
Paddy Brennan salutes the crowd on Bonttay (David Davies/PA)

Brennan secured a first- and last-race double when 2-1 favourite Bonttay ensured punters went home happy after the Stirrups Restaurant And Cocktail Bar Evesham Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Fergal O’Brien’s four-year-old had also won at the October meeting and now has a return in March on her agenda for the championship event.

Brennan, who saluted the crowd on crossing the line said: “She’s a nice filly. She was favourite, it’s the last race and the crowd and the atmosphere have been unbelievable today, so I hope they all went home on winner.”

O’Brien, who also saddled the second, Leading Theatre, said: “I own a bit of Bonttay so I was probably shouting a bit more for her.

“I got in trouble for not getting her to do a circuit of the paddock, but she’s a hot mare so while rules are rules I’m happy to take the fine. I will be in March, too!”

Sporting John (right) returned to winning ways
Sporting John (right) returned to winning ways (David Davies/PA)

Sporting John made a triumphant switch from chasing with a confidence-boosting display in the Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle.

Philip Hobbs’ charge had disappointed in both his races over fences after winning the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

Freshened up after 218 days, Sporting John (9-2) powered up the hill to beat Onagatheringstorm by two and a half lengths in the hands of Tom O’Brien.

The 3-1 favourite Ballymillsy set the pace until he ran out of steam, while the well-fancied Proschema fell at the second-last flight when in contention.

Hobbs said: “We had him entered in one or two chases but we couldn’t find anything that was competitive, they were all small fields, so it made more sense to run here and it will have given him confidence going over hurdles.

“Last season was in and out, but he did win a Grade One at Sandown so it wasn’t a disaster. We just couldn’t find a race to get him under way over fences.

“Staying hurdling is certainly a possibility, but I wouldn’t rule out going back over fences. On the other hand he could be a high-class hurdler.

“I’ve no idea where we go from here. Having Thyme Hill won’t affect anything, I’d love two runners in the Stayers’ Hurdle!

“Thyme Hill will go for the Long Walk next. He’s perfectly all right after Auteuil. I don’t think it was the French hurdles, more the very heavy ground.”

Strictlyadancer jumps the last clear under Ben Bromley
Strictlyadancer jumps the last clear under Ben Bromley (David Davies/PA)

Christian Williams’ Strictlyadancer (9-4 favourite) provided amateur jockey Ben Bromley with a first Cheltenham winner when following up his win at the October meeting in the Jewson Tool Hire Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase.

“I always thought jockeys were just saying it for the cameras when they talked about the feeling of having a winner here, but now I know what they mean,” said Bromley.

“It’s hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s unbelievable.

“I can’t describe the feeling. I thought I’d hit the front too soon as he can idle, but he didn’t do that today.”