Sophie Leech has identified the Coral Cup as a Cheltenham Festival target for her much-improved hurdler Garo De Juilley.
The seven-year-old has already had a clutch of eyecatching assignments among his six starts since his switch from Paul Nicholls’ powerhouse yard last summer.
Leech started him out in the Ascot Stakes, no less, but it is back over hurdles that Garo De Juilley has proved his worth – with a 25-1 win in Chepstow’s Silver Trophy and, most recently, by outrunning four times those odds as a 100-1 sixth in the JLT Hurdle at Ascot last month.
The Gloucesershire trainer is planning a return to handicap company next, and senses the Coral Cup trip of two miles and five furlongs will suit better than his first attempt at three in a race still best known to many as the Long Walk.
“We’ve been absolutely thrilled with him,” she said.
“He perhaps didn’t seem to quite get home on that sort of testing ground.
“He’s had a quietish time since then, and he was quite lucky that he only got put up a couple of pounds.”
Garo De Juilley will take in a trip to Taunton – rather than back to two miles in Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle – en route to Cheltenham.
“The intention is to get him to the Festival for the Coral Cup,” Leech added.
“At the Festival, you have to stay very well – so I think that will be the right race for him.
“The Betfair was just speculative really. He’s not going to go there – he’ll go to Taunton for a handicap, about three weeks before the Festival.”
It is to Leech’s credit that Garo De Juilley is showing his best form with her, having won just once in 10 attempts for Nicholls.
Similarly, at the age of eight General Bux won his first race on stable debut at Huntingdon on Boxing Day – after arriving from the care of Olly Murphy, the rising star among jumps trainers.
“That’s always nice, I suppose,” Leech said modestly.
“In fairness, Olly Murphy had got him in fantastic shape – so we can’t start taking too much credit for that.”
She nonetheless hopes the imposing General Bux, given time, can add significantly to his maiden success in a 0-100 handicap chase.
“He is massive – and such a big horse, he is still such a baby really.
“He’s still learning. I think he enjoyed the change of tactics (to front-running), and it just worked out for him.”
General Bux will be out again soon.
Leech added: “He’s not the easiest to keep right, and hasn’t taken a lot of racing.
“He’ll run in the next couple of weeks, I hope, and it’s about picking the right opportunities for him.
“Being such a big horse, you would think he would love courses like Chepstow, but I just don’t think he is quite grown-up enough for that yet.
“In time, I’m sure he’s going to develop into a very good staying chaser – but it will still take time.”