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.
2020 Triumph Hurdle Tips [expired]
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.