Somersby offers Henrietta Knight a ray of light

Somersby did more than stake his claim for the Arkle Chase in Saturday’s Henry VIII Chase at Sandown - he offered a route back to the big time for trainer Henrietta Knight.

It was only at the start of the century that Best Mate won three Cheltenham Gold Cups and a King George VI Chase together with stablemate Edredon Bleu.

But there were worrying signs Knight and partner Terry Biddlecombe were beginning to fade into jump racing’s forgotten margins.


Somersby: Impressive in Sandown win

Best Mate’s owner Jim Lewis now has his horses with Paul Nicholls and Knight won only 15 race last season, her lowest since 1992.

It was the delightfully eccentric Knight and Biddlecombe combination that added a magic human dimension to the Best Mate story, just as owner Harry Findlay adds an extra layer to the Denman saga.

Her patient style - remember the criticism for limiting Best Mate’s runs - does not suit all owners, although she has found a kindred spirit in Camilla Radford, owner of Somersby.

His third in the 2009 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle promised much for the chasing career he was built for, and Knight, who admits to feeling the same excitement watching him as she did a young Best Mate, sourced both geldings from the Costello family equine kindergarten in Ireland.

Henrietta Knight

Knight: Could be heading back to the big time

She said: ‘It is hard to get to the top but very easy to slip back down to the bottom. You just have to see it all out when things aren’t going so well. We have less horses than we used to have. People don’t want to wait so long for their horses but the Radfords understand how you make a chaser. You don’t rush them.

'Somersby (pictured with Tony McCoy) probably won’t eat now for two days - he is quite highly strung. He made an instant impression when we first saw him.

‘Unlike Best Mate, who we saw in a point-to-point, this one we saw in the raw - he hadn’t even been named. We saw him jumping plastic hurdles and Terry said this one will do.

‘I think he is a very good horse. He is a very different temperament to Best Mate and goes around on his own, but it doesn’t matter because he is so much better
than the other horses.’

One more race before Cheltenham is likely for the 9-1 Arkle hope. Interestingly, the winning time was over a second quicker than Twist Magic in the Tingle Creek.

Twist Magic’s win extended Nicholls’ domination in the race and pushed him past £1million in prizemoney. His next run will be in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot.

After a Saturday sequence which also includes Kauto Star (Betfair Chase) and Denman (Hennessy), Nicholls’ hopes this weekend rest with Celestial Halo against Punjabi in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

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