Kempton Preview – Knight Salute aims to underline Cheltenham claims for Milton Harris

Can Knight Salute maintain his unbeaten start over hurdles this weekend?Can Knight Salute maintain his unbeaten start over hurdles this weekend?

Kempton Preview – Knight Salute aims to underline Cheltenham claims for Milton Harris

Kempton Park provides the pick of the action this weekend featuring the £150,000 Coral Trophy. Cheltenham clues may be thin on the ground but Milton Harris is expected to run his Triumph Hurdle hope Knight Salute earlier in the day. This meeting has provided some Cheltenham market movers in the past and we take a look through the entries as the festival draws ever closer.

Knight Salute best-priced 16-1 for Triumph ahead of Kempton trial

Milton Harris will run his unbeaten Triumph Hurdle hope Knight Salute in either the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle or the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday. The son of Derby winner Sir Percy was top-rated 91 on the flat when trained by Andrew Balding but has been a revelation over hurdles, winning all four starts. His most recent success came at the expense of Porticello in the Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster in December. That horse has boosted the form since so Knight Salute sets the standard this weekend.

Six horses have won the Adonis and gone on to win the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham. The most recent of those was Zarkandar in 2011, trained by Paul Nicholls. The same trainer sent out Solo to win on his debut in this race in 2020, prompting a flood of money for the Triumph. Last year’s winner Tritonic was also heavily backed for Cheltenham but both horses disappointed. Nicholls has two entries on Saturday with Pleasant Man and Rubaud, both still entered for the Triumph.

Of the two, Pleasant Man looks the most likely to have bookmakers scurrying for cover. He was rated 101 on the flat when trained by Roger Charlton, finishing fifth in last year’s Chester Vase. Curiously, he beat none other than current Triumph favourite Pied Piper on his racecourse debut at Haydock in September 2020.

Too early to dismiss Iceo on the basis of one defeat

Nicholls could run Iceo in the Dovecote, so impressive on his debut here in December but well beaten at Cheltenham in January. The Ditcheat stable were not in the best of form at the time so the French import is worth keeping in mind. Interestingly, Nicholls has not declared him for the Triumph but he could be a player in a race like the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle. Gary Moore’s Shallwehaveonemore is another to note in the Dovecote. He was impressive at Sandown last time and settled better than in his previous races.

The Coral Trophy, previously run as the Racing Post Chase among other sponsors, looks a competitive handicap but is unlikely to ruffle any feathers in the Cheltenham betting. You have to go back to the likes of Rhyme ‘n’ Reason (1988) and Rough Quest (1996) who both went on to run well in the Gold Cup before winning the Grand National. Gloria Victis (2000) also earned a tilt at the Gold Cup but suffered a fatal fall at the festival meeting. There is nothing of that calibre entered on Saturday.

It is a similar story in the Pendil Novices’ Chase where Nicholls will seek a record twelfth victory with Pic D’Orhy. His previous winners include Frodon (2017) and Cyrname (2019) and Liverpool looks a more likely objective if Pic D’Orhy comes through this successfully. Saturday’s jump racing action also features the gruelling Eider Chase at Newcastle in which Emma Lavelle’s Éclair Surf could try to follow up his impressive Warwick Classic Chase success.