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Knight wins Sycamore joust in final strides

Cloudy's Knight just got the best of Winchester (inside) (EquiSport Photos)

Continuing his remarkable comeback for new trainer Jonathan Sheppard, S J Stables' homebred CLOUDY'S KNIGHT (Lord Avie) rallied in tandem with 9-5 favorite Winchester (Theatrical [Ire]) in Thursday's $125,000 Sycamore S. (G3) at Keeneland and prevailed by a head in a tight finish. Now two-for-two since returning from a year-long layoff, the nine-year-old gelding finished 1 1/2 miles in 2:30 4/5 on the firm turf.

As expected, the speedy Rumor Has It (Awesome Again) sprinted to a sizeable early lead through splits of :24 and :48, but the field closed the gap while reaching six furlongs in 1:14 3/5. Rumor Has It then gave way abruptly and dropped back to last. Free Fighter (Out of Place) and Timeless Fashion (Sky Classic) took over at the head of affairs, with the former getting his head in front through fractions of 1:41 2/5 and 2:06 2/5. Meanwhile, Cloudy's Knight and Winchester loped along in the latter part of the field.

In the stretch, Yate's Black Cat (Black Minnaloushe) was the first to erupt from off the pace, and the 20-1 shot collared a stubborn Timeless Fashion as Free Fighter began to fade. Yate's Black Cat could not maintain his advantage, however, for Cloudy's Knight and Winchester were both accelerating inside the final furlong. The two late runners rapidly joined Yate's Black Cat, who began to drift to his outside and accordingly floated his rivals out.

Cloudy's Knight, racing on the outside of the trio, finished best of all beneath Rosemary Homeister Jr. to snatch the victory. The 4-1 second choice returned $10.20, $4.80 and $4.20 while keying the $33 exacta, $361.60 trifecta and $5,051.80 superfecta (9-12-8-1).

"He's absolutely huge -- got a great stride," Sheppard said. "He's got a great stride, and Rosemary seems to have great rapport with him. All of this came together at the right time."

"At the eighth-pole, I thought I might be second or third," Homeister said. "When Ramon Dominguez's horse (Winchester) headed him, he just took off with him.  He's very game, aggressive, and he handled the turf course perfect."

Winchester was buffeted between horses as they crossed the wire, but got his neck down in front of Yate's Black Cat for runner-up honors. Ramon Dominguez, Winchester's rider, claimed foul against Homeister for alleged interference, but the stewards dismissed the objection.

Winchester gave back $3.20 and $2.80, while Yate's Black Cat rewarded his loyalists with $8.80 to show. Timeless Fashion hung tough for fourth, just a half-length back of third. Next came Rezif (Distant View), Free Fighter, Caberneigh (E Dubai), Tiger Woodman (Woodman), Americain (Dynaformer), defending champion Always First (GB) (Barathea [Ire]) and Gentleman Chester (Chester House), while Rumor Has It was distanced. The also-eligibles Guadalcanal (Graeme Hall), Medjool (Monarchos) and Sunshine Kid (Lemon Drop Kid) were scratched.

Cloudy's Knight improved his mark to 38-12-8-4, $2,255,626. Victorious in the John Henry S. at four and the Rossi Gold S. at five, the Kentucky-bred chestnut developed into a Canadian turf champion during his seven-year-old campaign in 2007. Then conditioned by Frank Kirby, Cloudy's Knight earned a Sovereign Award after capturing the Canadian International S. (Can-G1), Sky Classic S. (Can-G2) and Fair Grounds H. (G3). His resume includes a total of 10 stakes placings, notably the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial H. (G2), Nijinsky S. (Can-G2), River City H. (G3) and two runnings of the Stars and Stripes Turf H. (G3).

After failing to hit the board in four starts in 2008, Cloudy's Knight was rested and transferred to Sheppard. He made his first start for his new conditioner in the September 19 Kentucky Cup Turf S. (G3), where he closed with a flourish to win going away by 2 1/2 lengths.

Bred by Jerrold Schwartz, Cloudy's Knight is out of the winning Cloudy Spot (Solar City), making him a half-brother to the multiple stakes-winning Stormy Impact (Major Impact). His fourth dam is the influential matron Grass Shack (Polynesian), whose descendants include Deputy Minister (Vice Regent), a Canadian Horse of the Year and top stallion, and Charismatic (Summer Squall), the 1999 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner and Horse of the Year.


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