Shaune Ritchie hasn’t given up faith in Excalibur’s ability to win a feature staying race despite being off the winner’s list for 16 months.
“I thought he had an off-season last campaign,” the Cambridge trainer said. “He wasn’t rounding his races off like he can, but he had a tough year before that and horses sometimes have an off-year.
“Actually he looked to be coming up huge early on, but he had a stone bruise and it took a long time to get over it and he just wasn’t right. If he comes up well he could win some good races. He’s got the ability.”
Excalibur won five races within six starts during the summer of 2018, including three on end, culminating with victory in the New Zealand St Leger Trial (2100m) at Hastings before finishing seventh in the Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m).
This season he was runner-up in the Listed Karaka Classic (1600m) second-up at Pukekohe and pressed on along the cups trail with his best efforts being a fourth in the Gr.3 Waikato Cup (2400m) at Te Rapa and a sixth in the Auckland Cup.
Ritchie kept the Tavistock gelding ticking over with a few autumn runs and plans to send him north to Ruakaka as part of his squad being temporarily trained there from the end of this month to prepare for a spring campaign.