Excellent Guest finally got his head in front in a big handicap when coming fast and late to land the valuable Betfred Victoria Cup at Ascot at the weekend, in the process running the perfect trial for the Royal Hunt Cup, and delighting fans who placed a Royal Ascot bet.
Trained by George Margarson, the six-year-old had fallen to a mark of 93 after ending last term on a low note in finishing last of the 33 runners in the Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket having run little better on his previous outing.
Margarson had endured a series of near misses with the gelded son of Exceed and Excel in top handicaps over the last few seasons and had begun to wonder if he would ever land a decent prize.
Ridden in the 26-runner Victoria Cup by Tom Queally, Excellent Guest was held up for much of the straight seven-furlong contest before making good headway in the final quarter mile. Running on strongly well inside the final furlong, he burst through to hit the front and then stayed on well to hold another fast finisher, Bertiwhittle, by half-a-length.
Second in recent seasons in the Bunbury Cup, the Royal Hunt Cup, and the Buckingham Palace Handicap, Excellent Guest was certainly not winning out of turn and delighted his handler who is already looking forward to returning him to the fray at Royal Ascot next month for another crack at the Royal Hunt Cup over an extra furlong on the straight mile.
The 25/1 chance was landing his fourth win from 26 career starts and is a half-brother to the yard’s Imperial Guest who suffered a fatal injury at Kempton in January having proved a standard bearer for Margarson in recent seasons, including wining a valuable heritage handicap at Glorious Goodwood.
In Excellent Guest, it appears that the Newmarket handler has a ready-made replacement for his much missed stalwart, a point that Betfair pundit, Jamie Lynch, has supported in recent days.