AUTHOR: Lewis Williams

STAR RACING PREVIEW: Cheltenham Trials Day

Although the ‘doomsday’ clock has just been set at a record low indicating a world ending event is on the horizon, the only clock relevant on Saturday is the 45 day countdown that signifies the roar when the tapes drop for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March.

Saturday’s trials day card should prove a fascinating brief of the talent to come and antepost markets to be shaken up.

I’ve landed on 5 selections across the country.

12.05 CheltenhamJCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Finesse) 2m1f


I was fascinated by the performance of Sir Gino at Kempton on Boxing Day on his British debut. He only had one schooling session at Seven Barrows before that run but his pace looked electric from 2 out when the race was put to bed in the blink of an eye.

Although the initial form could be questioned at first glance, the 2nd and 3rd that day have subsequently struck by 17 and 26 lengths respectively, and I think there’s a lot more to come from Sir Gino who should come on leaps and bounds from his debut and 11/8 seems fair in what looks to be a two runner race.

Interestingly, the horse in 2nd from his Listed race win in France called Salvator Mundi has been purchased by the same connections, sent to Willie Mullins, and is a top antepost price of 5/1 for the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. It wouldn’t be a shock to see that price shorten following an outstanding display by Gino on Saturday.

There’s no getting away from what Burdett Road did after the last hurdle back at the November meeting. He was extremely impressive when running alone in the middle of the track under a confident Cobden ride and it’s great to see triple figure rated middle-distance flat horses take the domestic hurdling path instead of heading to Hong Kong and Australia.

Jack Jones’ An Bradan Feasa was 2nd that day and although he went on to win a trial at the December meeting himself, he beat a horse rated 17lbs inferior with the rest almost tailed off. Questions have to be asked about this line of form.

12.40 CheltenhamTimeform Novices’ Handicap Chase (Class 2) 2m4f


Despite being beaten by Grey Dawning by 5 lengths in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle last season, Ginny’s Destiny claimed his revenge by reversing the form around the new course last time out when he jumped flawlessly from the front under Harry Cobden and just held on to the ever-closing Grey Dawning.

The Skelton grey arguably would’ve won that day with a better jump at the second last but it was a great front-running performance nonetheless. A rise of 6lbs seems fair when you consider Grey Dawning went on to win the Grade 2 Hampton Novices’ Chase by 14 lengths to Grade 1 Sefton winner Apple Away in 2nd. The third that day (Trelawne) also franked the form with a credible 2 length 2nd to Colonel Harry in Wetherby’s big Grade 2.

He’s a bumper winner on good ground and from a brilliantly consistent family, being a half-brother to God’s Own who reached a ceiling of 165 and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t hold every chance if similar tactics to last time are adopted.

Unexpected Party is an unexpected price at 22s and is another who I see running a massive race. The majority of his 6-7yo season was the model of consistency across a handful of runs which included a demolition job in an Ascot handicap hurdle. That run led to him being sent off at a single-figure price for the County Hurdle the year that Commander Of Fleet beat Fastorslow in the midst of a horrendous deluge.

The Skelton camp campaigned him boldly in his first season over fences with 3 graded tasks but was well beaten against the likes of Jonbon in the Henry VIII and Stage Star in the Turners. However, his career looked on the up again on debut this season when he overcame Knappers Hill on Persian War weekend at Chepstow, who went on to score easily in a Grade 2 at Wincanton on Badger Beers day.

The following three runs have been underwhelming, but he still retains his novice status after 10 runs over fences and could take a perceptive hold in the race and put it up to the pace of Ginny’s Destiny early on. Based on his prior form, I’m willing to take a chance on him off a mark of 141.

1.50 CheltenhamPaddy Power Cotswold Chase (Grade 2) 3m1f


I’m adamant that Ahoy Senor and The Real Whacker have looked a shadow of themselves all season and are too short. Although Royal Pagaille was impressive at his beloved Haydock when winning the Betfair Chase, I can’t fathom that 6 length victory was against a Bravemansgame at his best. This was shown to likely be true when the Nicholls star was just touched off by Hewick in the King George the month later. Would Royal Pagaille have won that King George? Not for me.

The Venetia Williams principal hasn’t finished with any encouraging effort in all three of his Gold Cup runs here and their intended target was a 3rd Peter Marsh trophy at Haydock which was abandoned. He won’t get his preferred soft ground either, with the current going as good to soft and ever-drying conditions at the time of writing.

That leaves the exuberant Stay Away Fay who certainly deserves his chance in open company graded races this season despite being a novice by name. With just 6 starts under rules at 7 years of age, the son of Shantou made a serious impression to me at Exeter on chase debut when off the bridle for a long way before rallying to score comfortably in the end to Grey Dawning in third who has closely related form with Ginny’s Destiny as mentioned earlier.

Once again Stay Away Fay looked a beaten horse in the Grade 2 Esher Novices’ Chase at Sandown when he made all and again needed serious encouragement a long way out (partly due to a chaotic loose horse) but stayed on and rallied once Lucinda Russell’s Giovinco came upsides him. Looks can be deceiving with this horse and although he’s still learning on the job over fences, if he can get in a good jumping rhythm against the field here, I can’t see Royal Pagaille travelling round the new course bend as strongly as he did against Bravemansgame at Haydock. He’s a fair bet for me.

6.15 NewcastleAlways Gamble Responsibly With BetUK Novice Stakes (Class 5) 6f


Casting a quick eye up north to Newcastle where a flat twilight fixture takes place, Quiet Resolve is a Showcasing colt who was a massive eyecatcher for me when he totally fluffed his lines at the stalls on debut but finished incredibly well.

Jack Garrity had every right at that point to give the horse a very easy time on debut but his ability was visible when he was pulled wide for an effort. Despite being the best part of 20 lengths behind, he flew to finish just four and a half lengths behind in 3rd and collect the each-way money. The 2nd that day has bolted up by a comfortable 3 lengths and is now rated 84.

Bare in mind Quiet Resolve would’ve had every chance to reach those first two home had he broke better. Is there an 84 horse lying in waiting in this race? I was willing to take 11/2 that there isn’t and I’m still willing to take a price of 3/1.


BACK Sir Gino to win the 12.05 at Cheltenham 2pts at 11/8 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Ginny’s Destiny to win the 12.40 at Cheltenham 1pt at 3/1 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Unexpected Party to win the 12.40 at Cheltenham 0.5pts each-way at 22/1 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Stay Away Fay to win the 1.50 at Cheltenham 1pt at 11/4 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Quiet Resolve to win the 6.15 at Newcastle 2pts at 3/1 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)



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