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Coral’s eyecatchers from Saturday’s Cheltenham trial days

| 29.01.2024

Following a big weekend of racing with festival clues aplenty, Coral’s Lewis Knowles picks out a few eyecatchers from Cheltenham Trials Day on Saturday.

Excelero – 4th – Triumph Trial

Anybody with a working pair of eyes could tell you that if a superstar is going to come out of Saturday’s Triumph Trial at Cheltenham, it will surely be Sir Gino. A scintillating display from one of Nicky Henderson’s most exciting young prospects propelled him to the head of the betting for the big juvenile race at the festival, and for many people, he’ll now be one of the bankers of the week.

Rather than prematurely crown Sir Gino as the next big thing though, it’s much more fun to attempt to find a dark horse for the future in behind, and while he still clearly looked a work in progress, Excelero is a horse that Jane Williams can very much look forward to the future with.

This four-year-old son of Castle Du Berlais did a lot wrong on Saturday, yet despite the obvious signs of inexperience throughout, the eye-catching progress he made before two out suggested this is a horse with plenty of raw ability. He eventually kept on at one pace to finish fourth, but the 11-length gap to the winner was pretty much what he gave away at the start, and this experience almost certainly won’t be lost on Excelero.

It will be fascinating to see what Jane Williams does with him going forward, but should they get a handicap mark and decide to have a go, then it wouldn’t be ridiculous to suggest he could get involved off a strong pace in something like the Boodles Handicap at the festival.

Ahoy Senor – 4th – Cotswold Chase

‘‘The ability is there if he’d just apply himself’’ is the sort of thing my parents will have been sick of hearing at many a school parents evening, but Ahoy Senor still has time to realise his full potential and become a straight-A student if he’d just put it all together.

Following two non-completions pre-Christmas, the green shoots were definitely there on Saturday from Ahoy Senor, and if Stephen Mulqueen’s Stirrup leather hadn’t snapped at the top of hill, he might have finished even closer to the eventual winner Capodanno.

His jumping remains an obvious concern, but it’s easy to forget how well he was travelling before coming down in last year’s Gold Cup, and if he does suddenly decide to sort his jumping out, the engine is undoubtedly there to hit the frame at a big price in Cheltenham’s blue-riband event.

Fugitif – 3rd – Clarence House Chase

Fugitif won’t have been a horse on anybody’s mind for the Ryanair at the start of the season, and in truth, he probably still isn’t, but with many of the horses ahead of him in the betting unlikely to even be there, he wouldn’t be the most ridiculous each-way bet in the race.

Considering his best form over fences has come over intermediate trips, it was no surprise to see him out the back and outpaced against the best two-mile chasers in the country, but despite looking like tailing off at one point, he plugged on well into third to his credit, finishing about six-lengths behind the eventual winner Elixir De Nutz.

Will Fugitif win the Ryanair? Probably not, but he’s a big big price at the moment, and his impressive Cheltenham record coupled with the fact the race has the ability to really cut up means he’s more than capable of snatching a place at a decent price.

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Harvey Watkins