Botti hungry for ex-celebration in Frankel’s absence

MARCO Botti is confident Excelebration can make the most of the absence of old rival Frankel in the CGA Hungerford Stakes at Newbury today.

The three-year-old chased home Henry Cecil’s wonder horse on his first start of the year in the Greenham Stakes over this course and distance, and went on to claim 2000 Guineas glory in Germany.

He was once again left in Frankel’s wake in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on his latest start, although he was far from disgraced in finishing third, beaten just a couple of lengths.

With Frankel safely in his box this weekend, Excelebration looks to have outstanding claims of returning to winning ways – but Botti is taking nothing for granted.

“Even though Dick Turpin and Strong Suit do not run, it is still a tough race,” said the Italian trainer. “Delegator maybe hasn’t run to his best recently, but we know he’s a good horse and we still have to respect him.

“Dubawi Gold has finished second in the Guineas at Newmarket and in the Irish Guineas, so we have to respect him too.

“But we’re happy with Excelebration and we think he’s in good nick, so we’re really looking forward to seeing him run again.

“Good ground would be best for him. Obviously when he won in Germany the ground got a bit soft and he handled it very well, but I think good, safe ground would be better. I don’t think Newbury will get so much rain that it will change the ground too much.

“I’m sure he will run a good race. On the form of his run in the St James’s Palace Stakes he must have a good chance.”

Botti is determined to ensure the race is a truly-run affair, declaring stablemate Ceremonial Jade to make the pace if required.

“We decided to run Ceremonial Jade as I can’t see much pace in the race,” Botti continued.

“Most of them are hold-up horses and we don’t want a slow, rough race.

“Ceremonial Jade won’t set a crazy pace, we just want an even gallop all the way.”

Even though Excelebration has already shown he is up to competing at the highest level, Botti feels there is still more to come from his star turn.

“In my opinion I think Excelebration is still improving. Physically I can see him improving all the time,” he added.

“It’s been a bit of bad luck to have bumped into Frankel twice this season. He is a freak horse.

“Our form is solid and in my opinion Excelebration is a Group One horse. We hope he can keep on progressing and maybe have his chance to win a Group One race this year, if we can avoid Frankel!”

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