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Date of Tips: 16/03/2023
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Two Willie Mullins-trained entries head the betting for the Triumph Hurdle but my preference is with the filly, Lossiemouth.
After two wins in December, she really had the hat-trick at her mercy at the Dublin Racing Festival but things went slightly amiss during her run. After a clipping of heels coming together with Jourdefete, she struggled to make up the lost ground and her bid was over.
You would like to think both trainer and jockey will utilise her fillies allowance here and she’s a big player to say the least.
Perm Blood Destiny and Zenta with the NAP and you won’t be far off landing the first race forecast on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.
|Fri 17/03/2023||13:30||2m 139y||Hurdle|
The Triumph Hurdle is the opening race of day 4 of the Cheltenham Festival. It’s run on the New Course over a distance of 2 miles and 1 furlong and is open to juvenile hurdlers aged four years and over.
The race features 8 hurdles to be jumped and is one of the most prestigious juvenile hurdle races in the National Hunt calendar. Past winners of note include the likes of Katchit, Tiger Roll, and Pentland Hills.
|Jupiter Du Gite||20/1|
|Gust Of Wind||33/1|
After a small bit of time to digest, it was a wonderful weekend of action at both the Dublin Racing Festival and at Musselburgh and Sandown over the weekend. There was a combination between proper Grade 1 racing, tasty handicaps and of course, some Gallant John Joe propaganda. We are now just over a month until the big meeting in Cheltenham, and we have to begin ramping up the content for the iconic four days. There may have been some great pointers, but I am going to highlight a case for a horse who was well beaten on Saturday, but the market reaction may have been a tad strong.
The race is the Triumph Hurdle, which has largely been a dormant betting heat for the majority of the season but has sprung into life over the last two weeks. That is due to a formline from Punchestown earlier this season, which time has been very friendly to. Pied Piper beat Vauban in a thrilling finish on that occasion, and both the first and second went on to win impressively in the meantime. Pied Piper was a fantastic winner at Cheltenham on Trials Day, while Vauban won in decisive fashion at Leopardstown this weekend, beating Fil Dor in taking fashion.
I was a little bit snippy about Vauban going into this weekend, as I felt his reputation was far outweighing what he had actually achieved on the track thus far. He quickly shut down both mine and others’ thoughts with an impressive performance, winning by three lengths and looking like there was still improvement to come. He has shot through into favoritism for the Triumph at Cheltenham, and that is more than fair based on that effort. However, for those that have missed the price, there is not much value in backing 2/1 shots five weeks out from the meeting.
Instead, I want to focus on the horse he conquered on the weekend, Fil Dor. For many months of this season, the gray horse has been perched on top of the betting for this Triumph hurdle, and perhaps due to a disappointing effort on the weekend, and the weight of money on the first two in the market, this horse has quickly been skimmed over. However, I think there are reasons to suggest that the overall price he has gone out to has been a drastic overreaction and now represents some value for those looking to have an angle into the race.
Saturday was Fil Dor’s first defeat since arriving on these shores from France, and his record of three from four for Gordon Elliot has included some excellent performances. He won decisively on his debut for this yard in Down Royal, when beating a subsequent Listed winner in Sea Sessions. He followed up in Fairyhouse at their Hatton’s Grace meeting, and then at Leopardstown over Christmas. He beat Lunar Power on both occasions, who is no more than a fair marker of form, but he was definitely more impressive at Leopardstown.
The key to my argument is ground related with this horse, as he has put up markedly better efforts on his two starts on softer ground rather than quick ground. As much as it is highly unlikely to be heavy ground at Cheltenham, which would suit this horse I think, it is very unlikely to be as quick as he encountered both at Fairyhouse in December and Leopardstown at the weekend. Getting some softer ground, a stronger pace to aim at and a stiff finish, may all suit this horse who is perhaps not blessed with a turn of foot – but is a strong stayer and mostly accurate jumper.
I understand that he may well have to improve a fair bit to reverse form with Vauban and to beat his stablemate, Pied Piper – but the 8/1 available with Bet365 looks a bit of an outrage given his form throughout the season and his likelihood to run a good, solid race. I can’t see him outside the first three in the race and he could well be the first to pounce if something did happen to the two at the top of the market. I think Fil Dor is better than he showed on the weekend, and 8/1 is a very fair price to hope he can turn the tables in the Triumph Hurdle on Friday at Cheltenham.
Of those at the front of the Triumph Hurdle market, if I had to pick out two to fare well in next year’s Champion Hurdle, (which is a notoriously tough thing to do for any horse the season after their juvenile campaign,) then I would pick Zanahiyr and Tritonic. So, the fact they are vying for favouritism for the opening race on Gold Cup day is probably correct.
However, the Triumph Hurdle is a unique test – it is as strong a test of stamina a juvenile hurdler can encounter, and as thus, I would far rather back Quilixios at 11/2 each-way generally to be ideally suited to the rigours of the race.
Any horse that can win over 2m1f over hurdles on heavy ground, beating many subsequent winners, 13 days before it’s official 3rd birthday will have stamina not just in spades, but in the whole toolbag! Don’t forget, many horses running as a two-year-old, even ones who are destined for stamina-defined races, will still be running over 7f or 1m at this stage of their career.
Now, the worry for a horse such as Quilixios, who can perform such a feat before he turned three, would be that he perhaps doesn’t possess the requisite class to go with his staying power. That notion was firmly put to bed by his win in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin racing Festival, in a time that stands up to the closest scrutiny provided by the speedier types, and beating the same horses that ex-stablemate Zanahiyr beat at Christmas.
Given the form that Quilixios showed there, and the fact that he is all but cast-iron guaranteed to improve for the 2m1f test on the stiff New Course, I would genuinely have him close to clear favourite. So, that he is still a generous 11/2 shot, makes him a lovely each-way bet.
There was a rumour that he may run in the Boodles on day two, but that option has been removed after he wasn’t confirmed for the race yesterday, thus leaving the way clear for a bid at the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle.
Zanahiyr has looked incredibly versatile during his fledgling career, but will he be at his best on the long grind for home in the Triumph. While despite Tritonic taking to hurdles very nicely indeed, I just can’t shake the impression that when he raced on the flat, the last furlong of his races was consistently the least impressive.
Of those at bigger odds, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Adagio run into the frame and potentially be the best of the British-trained runners, as the David Pipe-Tom Scudamore axis have worked out how to get the best out of him, and that could well suit how Triumph Hurdles are usually run.
But the one I feel they all have to beat is Quilixios, the rubber-stamped stayer, and at 11/2 represents a great value each-way bet generally.
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.