Whether it was the change of scenery or the attentions of the veterinary surgeon can be debated, but the fact is that Blythe Knight, hitherto regarded as something of a cheeky monkey, turned up at Redcar yesterday in brave tiger guise and won the 153rd Lincoln Handicap at 22-1. The six-year-old, who both transferred from Ed Dunlop's yard in Newmarket to that of John Quinn in Malton and was gelded during the close season, took the historic prize by a hard-pressed three-quarters of a length from the 25-1 shot Royal Island.
As Zero Tolerance formed the point of the 30-runner arrow down the straight mile, Graham Gibbons settled Blythe Knight in the pack before starting to pick off rivals and take the lead more than a furlong from the line. The horse had plenty of time to shirk the issue but as soon as Royal Island began to challenge, he pinned back his ears, lowered his head and battled.
"Brilliant," said Gibbons. "The boss told me to try to coax him rather than force him, but he travelled like a dream the whole way and I got there sooner than I wanted. He was in front plenty long enough but he kept going and really stuck his neck out." The first two were three and a half lengths in front of the fast-finishing Capable Guest (25-1), who pipped Zero Tolerance (14-1) by a neck, with Audience (33-1) just behind and the 2004 winner Babodana in sixth.
Quinn paid 90,000 guineas for Blythe Knight at auction last October; yesterday the chestnut earned back £62,320 of that for his new owner, Peter Clay. "I'd been told the horse was ungenuine, but there was no sign of that here," said Quinn.
The Lincoln was run at Redcar because its usual home, Doncaster, is undergoing refurbishment. But there was an embarrassing false start - literally - to the little Yorkshire track's day in the spotlight, when 10 of the 24 stalls in the opening race sprang a second before the rest.
At Kempton, too, there was a delay before Akona Matata joined Niklas Angel (at Lingfield in October 1989), Crystal Pool (Southwell, November 1989) and Express Service (Wolverhampton, December 1993) as the inaugural winner on a new all-weather track. The discovery of some stones among the sand caused a 20-minute hold-up before the four-year-old, ridden by Jimmy Fortune, took his place in the history books.
Baracouda, the best staying hurdler of all time, has been retired. The 11-year-old finished fifth at Cheltenham 10 days ago when trying to add a third long-distance crown to the two taken in 2002 and 2003, and it emerged yesterday that he picked up a minor hind-leg tendon injury in the process. "You cannot repair a Rolls-Royce," said his trainer, François Doumen. "It has been very thrilling to be involved with a horse so loved on both sides of the Channel and he will be massively missed in my yard." Baracouda, who won 18 of 27 hurdles starts and earned £775,000, will join Istabraq at the Martinstown Stud in Co Limerick of their owner, J P McManus.
BETS OF THE DAY
Shaunas Vision (Brighton 4.00) is unpenalised for eased-down British debut success three days ago.
Whenwillitwin. In a poor contest (Brighton 4.30) with first-time blinkers and from an in-form stable, it could be today.