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Excalibur books ticket to Dunstan Stayers final

24 December 2017, 3:08 p.m.

​Cambridge stayer Excalibur booked his place in the rich Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship Final (2200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day with a gritty victory at Te Rapa on Saturday.

The Tavistock four-year-old needed a good performance to lift himself into a guaranteed starting position at Ellerslie. He achieved that in style as he out-finished a pair of potential Dunstan Championship rivals in Model Aye and Te Waewae Bay to capture the Red Cabs sponsored 2100 metre contest.

Excalibur Photo: Trish Dunell

Trainer Shaune Ritchie was delighted to see his charge buckle down and fight hard in the concluding stages as he admitted the horse was still a work in progress with his racing manners.

“It was a good tough win as he can be a very difficult horse to ride,” he said.

“He has plenty of ability, but it has taken a while for his manners to catch up. He can do plenty wrong during his races and it did look like he wanted to knock off when he hit the front on Saturday so he’s certainly not the finished product just yet.

“He is tough though and can stay all day, so you would think with his breeding he will only get better as he gets older.”

Ritchie has always had confidence that Excalibur could measure up to the best and tested him during his three-year-old campaign with a start in the Gr. 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m).

“We gave him his chance in the Derby and he certainly didn’t disappoint in finishing eighth to Gingernuts,” he said.

“The form out of the race has stood up well, so we were confident he could perform during this campaign as he is a much stronger horse this time in.

“He does need ground though so now he’s up to a middle distance I think you will see the best of him.”

Ritchie is keen to see the horse get his chance in the rich Dunstan Stayers finale as the race has consistently thrown up winners that have gone on to better things.

“The Dunstan is a race that trainers target with their potential top-line stayers and with the increase in prize-money this year to $100,000 it’s been tough to even get in,” he said.

“Now we’ve booked our spot I think he will be at his peak for the race and it’s at a course where he runs well so I’m expecting a good performance.” – NZ Racing Desk