A few quick questions for you – which leading trainer has won the Triumph Hurdle in 4 of the last 11 seasons? Which trainer saddled the 1, 2, 3 home in the 2015 Triumph Hurdle? Which handler has also had the well backed 6/5 favourite finish fourth in 2018? Who trained the Triumph runner-up to the mighty Tiger Roll in 2014? Which Lambourn-based trainer (big clue there!) has only one entry in this year’s Triumph Hurdle?
The answer to all of these questions is of course, Nicky Henderson. While the horse in question is Grand Roi, who is a perfect one win from one hurdle start. That hurdle victory came at the unusual venue of Fakenham – not a track that you would normally associate Cheltenham Festival winners with, but it could have been a masterstroke from Henderson, as it can be a tricky place to jump round.
Grand Roi will have learnt plenty, and on the whole jumped fluently. Whether he has another start beforehand remains to be seen, and while he may be deemed too inexperienced to take in the Triumph Hurdle, I’d beg to differ as there are reasons to think otherwise.
Nicky Henderson won last year’s Triumph with Pentland Hills, off the back of one hurdle start. In addition to that, Grand Roi has had plenty of experience with four bumper starts in France and the UK. While his owners are the Million in Mind Partnership, whose modus operandi is to maximise prize money opportunities, before dispersing their horses at the end of each season.
Grand Roi has also had experience of the New course at Cheltenham, when finishing a running on fourth in a Listed bumper on New Year’s Day – a race in which the first four were quicker home from the top of the hill compared with decent hurdle winners on the same card, Protektorat and Summerville Boy. Since then, the second home Ocean Wind has bolted up in a similar race.
At 25/1 with Bet365, and the NRNB concession, he could just about represent the best value bet of the Festival at this stage. The market has focused on Goshen, Allmankind and Aspire Tower for obvious reasons, but regularly this race is more open than early market moves dictate.
Ahead of a potential run this weekend at Haydock or Exeter – Storm Denis allowing – Paul Nicholls’ Sir Psycho is well worth chancing at 50/1 also, or 33/1 NRNB.
The last time we saw him he made light work of a useful older rival in a decent time for a juvenile on soft ground. Sir Psycho may be more of a Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle project, but he certainly wouldn’t be out of place in a Triumph.