Derby countdown: Knight riding high for Harry Dunlop

Wed 30 May 2018

Having watched his father and brother taste Classic glory at Epsom over the years, Harry Dunlop hopes Knight To Behold can give him a piece of his own in the Investec Derby on Saturday.

Knight To Behold - Lingfield - May 2018 Knight To Behold is the first son of Sea The Stars Harry Dunlop has ever trained (PA)

With John Dunlop recording a brace of wins in both the Derby and Oaks, and his brother Ed successful in two Oaks, the 42-year-old is attempting to get in on the act by making his first runner in the blue riband a triumphant one.

He said: “It’s extraordinary how the Derby has almost all the media and general public getting excited by it, a little bit similar to the Grand National.

“We’ve got 40 horses and a staff of 10 so we are a close-knit yard, so it’s lovely having the media come visit us. It is fantastic to have a horse considered to have a chance in the race.

“I was a only two when dad won it with Shirley Heights in 1978, but I remember Erhaab winning in 1994. I remember him doing a right angle at Tattenham Corner as he was so far back, but he ended up winning. That was very special.

“When you are seeing these top-class horses winning races of this magnitude, you cannot help but be in awe of it.

“I’ve worked for dad, and he has had two winners, and Henry Cecil, who I also worked with, had an incredible strike-rate in it, but to be doing it yourself is very special and obviously having a horse good enough to do it.”

While it was the Neil Jones-owned colt’s victory in last month Lingfield Derby Trial that marked him out as a live contender for the Derby, that was far from the case for Dunlop, who has long believed he has the potential to be a star.

He said: “I think his run in the Haynes, Hanson and Clark conditions event at Newbury first time was a really good run. It was his babyishness that lost him the day.

“From there he won his maiden at Newmarket and that sort of said it all really. He is a beautiful horse and very good mover and a horse we’ve always liked.

“There was no real pace during the first part of the Lingfield race and we jumped well and he went on and to be honest with you once he got in front I thought this was lovely.

“It was lovely to see him in the last couple of furlongs quicken again having quickened mid-race. When you have won a trial you feel good enough to do it.

“We didn’t go to Breakfast With The Stars as we thought it was a bit close to the race. He had run at Lingfield, so he had experience of undulations.

“Obviously the Derby is the most important thing, but if he can keep going through the year that would be very exciting.”

The village of Lambourn is one which boasts a rich community spirit and embraces everything to do with supporting those based there, something which Dunlop has witnessed first hand in the build up to Derby.

He said: “We’ve very much felt the village get behind us.

“After the Lingfield win I went into the Co-op on the way home and I had people saying well done and you’ve got an exciting Derby horse and you’ve got to have a go.

“It’s a real community spirit and I think that’s wonderful and that is a sign of the Derby and how people support it.”

When it comes to assessing the opposition, Dunlop feels there is no getting away from dual Group One winner Saxon Warrior as the horse he rates as the most potent threat.

He said: “I know Aidan O’Brien always holds all the aces and I know things will be different with pacemakers and things, but the main thing is to try and enjoy it.

“I think Young Rascal is a very nice horse, but you can’t get away from Saxon Warrior as the form is all there so I think it all points to him.

“That is the one thing – knowing we get the trip, that is in our favour. We’ve seen it before with horses that don’t stay, but the likes of the Coolmore horses are bred to stay.”

Should Dunlop go on to achieve the victory he has long dreamt of, the will be no shortage of celebrations back in the Valley of the Racehorse.

He said: “I think we will have a big party if we win and do something for the village that brings everyone together.

“I’ve dreamt of having a homecoming so would think about that if he does win!”

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