The benefit of hindsight usually vouches for the fact that Cheltenham Trials Day seldom serves up leading candidates for the biggest races at the Festival in March, however it reliably delivers a quality day’s racing and some great betting races.
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Henderson youngster has scope to rise above the usual suspects
These 2m4f handicap chases at Cheltenham attract a familiar cast throughout the season and the first, second and fourth from the December Gold Cup return here in the shape Fugitif, Il Ridoto and Grandeur D’Ame, with the first two mentioned at the head of the betting again.
Both are likely to run good races but they’re known quantities to the handicapper at this point. The same can’t be said for Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old French import EXCELLO.
He arrived at Henderson’s Seven Barrows operation having already raced three times over fences across the channel and after a so-so stable debut in November he stepped up to comfortably win a valuable Ascot graduation chase at the expense of the 149-rated Solo just before Christmas.
Bought by renowned horse-picker Anthony Bromley out of the yard of Jeremy Da Silva, there had been expectations the gelding was exciting prior to that nice run and there should be plenty more to come given his age. Progressive and in receipt of 6lbs in weight from older horses he can win again.
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More to come from Coral Trophy winner on second start at 3m+
There are plenty of runners in the Cotswold Chase with a bit to prove. Last year’s winner Ahoy Senor has been pulled up on both starts this season. Royal Pagaille has been beaten 24, 18 and 49 lengths in Cheltenham Gold Cups on his last three visits to the track.
The Real Whacker, won the Brown Advisory Novices Chase at last year’s festival but was pulled up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on his seasonal debut before an improved, albeit never dangerous fourth in the King George. Capodanno was more than 12 lengths fourth in the 2022 Brown Advisory.
Coral Trophy winner DATSALRIGHTGINO has easily the most upside in the contest. Not only did he show dramatic improvement when racing over in excess of 2m5f for the first time at Newbury but he finished a narrow second to subsequent Turners Novices’ Chase winner Stage Star in the 2m4f novices’ chase on this card last year.
A novice hurdle win over the now-smart chaser JPR One at Cheltenham back in 2021 further advertises his ability to perform at Prestbury Park. Jamie Snowden’s chaser could be set to go from strength to strength at this new trip and has more upside than any of his foes.
Eye-catching jockey booking hints Grand National winner can run big
The front of the Cleeve Hurdle betting is largely the preserve of horses with ages in the double figures with evergreen veterans Paisely Park (12), Dashel Drasher (11) and Champ (12) all towards the head of proceedings.
At the more youthful end of the spectrum Strong Leader (7) and West Balbao (8) have yet to do enough to convince they can take over the winning of these type of races from the old guard.
Between the two groups is the 2022 Grand National winner NOBLE YEATS. The nine-year-old is clearly competing over timber here to protect his chase mark whilst keeping fit ahead of another Aintree mission in April but the booking of leading British rider Harry Cobden suggests connections may consider him capable of claiming this prize, worth not far short of £40,000.
As a Grand National winner there are zero doubts over his staying ability, neither can there be misgivings over his class – he’s a Grade 2 winner over fences and finished fourth in last year’s Gold Cup. He could just have more of the latter quality than his more aged rivals in this contest.