Trials Day round-up: Did we see a future Festival winner at Cheltenham on Saturday?

By Harry Allwood@H_Allwood1
Mon 27 Jan 2020

There were plenty of Cheltenham Festival clues on show on Trials Day on Saturday and there is a high chance we saw a future Festival winner in action.

Three of the seven winners – Siruh Du Lac, Frodon and Paisley Park – on last year’s card went on to win at the Cheltenham Festival and there has been a shake-up in numerous ante-post markets for the big four days in March.

Dave Yates and Tom Stanley analysed all the key races on Cheltenham Trials Day in The Verdict on Racing TV on Monday. You can watch segments below and the whole show is available to watch on our website.

You can also watch all the action again for free in our results and replay section here.

Race: JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle

Galahad Quest got off the mark at the third time of asking in this Grade Two contest and is now a best-priced 40-1 for the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival.

It did not look the strongest Triumph Trial on paper and Monte Cristo, making his British debut for Nicky Henderson, was all the rage in the market beforehand but the 10-11 favourite looked in need of further having got outpaced.

The winner was purchased as a “Gold Cup prospect” by Nick Williams and the Devon handler suggested his youngster may not run at the Festival and is more of a long-term prospect.

Nick Williams says Galahad Quest is a horse for the future

It is unlikely we saw the winner of the opening race on the final day of the Festival here, but Galahad Quest is likely to make an exciting chaser in time.

Race: Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase

Watch how Simply The Betts scored at Cheltenham on Trials Day

This was a competitive handicap and Simply The Betts produced a career best off a rating of 140 to record his third victory from four starts over fences.

He jumped well, which wasn’t the case on his previous start at Kempton and appreciated the return to a left-handed track.

It will be interesting to see how the handicapper reacts to this victory as he pulled eleven lengths clear with the runner-up and connections are likely to aim their seven-year-old at the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase, which he is a best-priced 20-1 with BetVictor for. He will need to be raised 5lb or less to get into the race.

He did get his own way out in front for a long way, which he is unlikely to get at the Festival, but he probably needs to up his game again to follow in the footsteps of Mister Whitaker who won the contest in 2018 before winning the Close Brothers.

Race: Paddy Power 45 Sleeps To Cheltenham Trophy Handicap Chase

It looked as though Cepage was in the grip of the handicapper having been beaten in similar races on his previous three starts but the eight-year-old showed a great attitude to land the spoils in this £70,000 contest.

Lalor went agonisingly close once again and will appreciate the return to better ground, as did runner-up Spiritofthegames who made a bad mistake at the fourth last when he was creeping into contention and that may have cost him the race given he was only beaten half a length.

Our pundits and presenters reveals their ante-post bets for the Cheltenham Festival

Dan Skelton’s charge was denied on the line in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in December and finished third in the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate off a rating of 147 last year.

The first three home here are now a best-priced 25-1 for that Grade Three contest on the third day of the Festival and it would be no surprise if any of them made their presence felt, but Spiritofthegames makes plenty of appeal at those odds with 888Sport.

Spiritofthegames also went close in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in December

Race: Paddy Power Cotswold Chase

There were plenty of doubters against Santini following his workmanlike victory at Sandown on his seasonal debut, but Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old proved he deserves to take his chance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup here.

He looks tailor-made for the blue riband contest, and the way he kept finding under pressure to fend off 2019 Gold Cup third Bristol De Mai was encouraging. He seems to have been helped by the wind op he received after his run at Sandown, too.

One negative is that he can race lazily, and that may make Nico de Boinville’s task harder in the Gold Cup. Connections did not mention it afterwards, but it would be no surprise if he wore headgear in March.

He seems suited by the new course compared to the old course which he finished third over in the RSA Chase last year and the extra distance in the Gold Cup will help. Nico de Boinville also believes Santini has "all the right credentials" for the Gold Cup.

Interestingly, Henderson said “the better the ground, the better he will be” afterwards and believes there is “an awful lot of improvement to come” from his son of Milan which makes this performance all the more impressive.

He is now one of the leading British hopes for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and has each-way claims at a best-price 7-1 in what is an open-looking contest.

Nicky Henderson discusses Santini's victory in the Cotswold Chase

Race: Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

This race has been won by Bobs Worth, At Fishers Cross and Santini in the past and only time will tell if we have seen a horse of their calibre here.

Harry Senior showed he has a bright future with a commanding victory and is now a best-priced 12-1 for the Albert Bartlett.

His rider, Robbie Power, believes the youngster has that race “written all over him” and the step up to three miles should also suit judged by his breeding.

Robbie Power was impressed with Harry Senior

It sometimes pays to look beyond the victors in this contest as Rock On Ruby, The New One and Coneygree all got beat in this race in the past.

King Roland made an eye-catching move to lead entering the home straight and looked the winner given how strongly he was travelling but could not go with Harry Senior after the final hurdle.

However, this was a promising performance and it will be interesting to see which route Harry Fry takes with his youngster. He is certainly one to put into your Racing TV tracker.

Race: Cleeve Hurdle

The star of the show on Festival Trials Day was undoubtedly Paisley Park who defended his Cleeve Hurdle crown and will now bid to record back-to-back victories in the Stayers’ Hurdle in March.

He only seems to do enough in front, so we still don’t know how good he is and Aidan Coleman said the eight-year-old was “laughing at him” up the run in.

If Benie Des Dieux runs in the Mares’ Hurdle, Paisley Park is likely to go off shorter than evens on the day, but it will be an interesting match should Willie Mullins’ star mare run in the Thursday showpiece which is a possibility following her impressive victory at Gowran Park this month.

Aidan Coleman reflected on Paisley Park's victory on Luck On Sunday

However, Paisley Park continues to prove he is the best staying hurdler in training and has looked as good as ever this season. Emma Lavelle’s charge will be many people’s banker at the Festival, including mine.

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