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On guard as Venetia takes the one-for-all approach with Aramis; Alastair Down sees the Knavesmire conquered by a Cheltenham and Aintree hero.

Byline: Alastair Down

AGENIUS trainer who has enjoyed spectacular success at the two biggest meetings of the year so far and won the most famous race of them all struck again on the Knavesmire yesterday when Kayf Aramis won the concluding handicap over the extended trip of an extremely long way indeed..

They say the poor are always with us, but so is the elegant figure of Venetia Williams - Cheltenham, Aintree, York, they all come alike to the great woman, though the way she drives it probably takes no more than an hour to get here from her Herefordshire base.

And Venetia has hardly started. The orders she gave to Johnny Murtagh were along the lines "win as far as you can and then some. Get ten lengths clear and then kick on" - as Miss Williams' plans for world domination now include the Ascot Stakes at the royal meeting en route to her main target of the Cesarewitch in the autumn at Newmarket.

In order to heave Kayf Aramis's handicap rating up by the requisite amount he needed to win convincingly, and the margin of 13 lengths, with Murtagh looking round and mouthing "will this do?" would seem to tick that box.

The poor handicapper - weaned on watching thousands of horses having their ability concealed to the nth degree - will probably drop Kayf Aramis 5lb in sheer shock at seeing one trying too hard! Horses who win at both the Cheltenham Festival and on the Knavesmire are rare and, historically, had the priceless asset of being trained by Peter Easterby, as he painstakingly put together his 266,000-acre estate that lies just outside Malton and ends a couple of miles south of Edinburgh..

In his Flat incarnation, Alverton won on the Knavesmire - despite the assistance of my flat-'atted colleague Tom O'Ryan - and eventually landed a Cheltenham Gold Cup. Then, of course, there was the one and only Sea Pigeon.

Beaten by Monksfield in the Champion Hurdles of 1978 and 1979, Sea Pigeon won the Ebor five months later under the steadier of 10st with Jonjo O'Neill in the saddle.

It was the closest of photos, and the Yorkshire roar of acclamation that greeted the announcement "first, number one" is probably still echoing around the farthest-flung peaks of Nanga Parbat. Well, Sutton Bank anyway.

And if you thought such events are the stuff of greybeard misty memory you are wrong. The jockey who rode Donegal Prince, runner-up to Sea Pigeon that famous afternoon, is still earning a very good living at the highest level 30 years later - step forward that fine judge and grafter Philip Robinson.

Having netted an Ebor, Sea Pigeon went on to land the Champion Hurdle for the next two years, bridging the gap twixt Yorkshire and Gloucestershire with ease..

But they don't often win at Cheltenham Festival before coming on here, and Kayf Aramis deserves credit for that.

He probably also thinks he also deserves a rest but, with Venetia planning to annexe Ascot and Newmarket, he ain't going to get one.

Many trainers saddle winners at all 59 courses in Britain, and Venetia may soon be another. It is unusual, however, to achieve the feat with just one horse - in this case the luckless Kayf Aramis. C HIEF race on the undercard was the Dante Stakes, in which Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien saddled the first and second home. Sad to relate, Aidan has lost his way a little since his great Cheltenham triumphs with Istabraq but still rubs along nicely enough making a reasonable living at the Flat game to which he inexplicably confines himself these days.

The Dante is regarded as the most important trial for the Derby horse race that is run over a rib-tickling set of swoops and switchbacks at Epsom early next month.

Yesterday's winner, Black Bear Island, is one of seemingly dozens of O'Brien horses who seem to have a chance in the Derby. But it is only fair to point out that he was sent off at 12-1 here and, having won another trial at Chester last week with a 25-1 chance, Golden Sword, questions have to be asked as to whether the O'Brien team really know what they are doing when it comes to three-year-old colts.

However, they do have the Derby favourite in the shape of Fame And Glory which, I am reliably informed, was named in order to invoke the golden time when Aidan enjoyed both fame and glory in his days as a jumps trainer.

The best finish of the day was the fabulous Middleton Stakes head-to-head between Ryan Moore on Crystal Capella and Frankie Dettori aboard Dar Re Mi. It hardly needs pointing out that the winner is trained by Michael Stoute, who, of course, became Sir Michael when knighted for services to jump racing after he won the Champion Hurdle with Kribensis.

Today is Yorkshire Cup day, but there are two races for three-year-olds, one over a mile and another over 12 furlongs. We should have the first quotes for the 2010 Triumph Hurdle by five o'clock..


Trainer Ed Dunlop (bottom left, light mac) following the action intently at York
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 15, 2009
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