What an open race this year’s renewal of the Triumph Hurdle looks! I can’t recall this race being as open as this since Zarkandar shot up the hill with a turn of foot that turned out to be his trademark throughout his successful career in racing. As with the Neptune Investments Novice Hurdle which I’ve also previewed, I have had reasonable success tipping up the winner in the Friday opener, most notably with the likes of Katchit, Zaynar, Zarkandar, Our Conor and Peace & Co from last year. Obviously it doesn’t give any guarantees we can find the winner this year but it’s a guide that the research does throw up the winner of this race more often than not. My key factor(s) in my search are very basic but helps guide me towards my selection: • Have they raced on the Flat previously? • Have they got form on ground Good to Soft or better? • Have they got form in a Grade 2 or better that entitles them to run here? The Triumph is only open to 4 year old novice hurdlers, which means that unlike some of the other novice hurdle races at the Cheltenham Festival, it’s more likely that horses targeted and entered in this race will end up here should they stay fit and healthy in the lead up to the race. From an ante-post point of view, of all the novice hurdle races to be run at the Cheltenham Festival this is the race that changes the least in the run up to the race, Possibly a reason as to why I quite like to have a play in the race. The Contenders! The 2016 renewal looks a very open one indeed with the market speaking quite favourably of the Aidan O’Brien trained/JP Mcmanus owned IVANOVICH GORBATOV. This horse made a huge impression with his debut win over hurdles at Leopardstown in a 3YO Maiden hurdle when he accounted for a highly regarded horse of Willie Mullins called LETS DANCE, who has gone on to have a very solid season and hopefully re-opposes here. IVANOVICH GORBATOV then contested the Grade 1 Spring hurdle at the same venue in early February where he really looked like the ground was too heavy for him and with hindsight possibly shouldn’t have run. Looking further back to his Flat form, it seems clear he will really benefit with the return to better ground. Aidan O’Brien is a superb trainer and it would be mad to dismiss one bad run especially with the strong vibes that Barry Geraghty is likely to stick with him. On Festival Trials Day at Prestbury Park, we were treated to one of the races of the season so far. It was an occasion when all the big named trainers in the UK gave chucked their hats in the ring. On that day the 4 horses that took each other on up the Cheltenham hill were PROTEK DES FLOS, CLAN DES OBEAUX, CONSUL DE THAIX and WHO DARES WINS. It’s the last named horse that grabbed my attention that day, with the expectation of him to run well based on previous form and his price of 13/8 suggesting he was likely to go very close. He ended up finishing 4th which doesn’t sound fantastic, but he was beaten less than 3 lengths. When you add to the equation the fact that his trainer has since said he didn’t really like that ground and he will be seen in better light on better ground in the spring. WHO DARES WINS has to be taken into consideration. He is a stunning horse who has a lot of experience and his trainer knows what’s going to be required of him in a race of this nature. He has to enter calculations for Alan King and team who also look like running GILBRIFANO who has also done very little wrong in winning both his hurdle races so far. He has far less experience than most and for that reason I don’t really include him as a major danger, but you have to respect any runner Alan King has at the Festival especially in a race he has experience of winning. For me the main British hope is trained by Paul Nicholls and has looked like he could repeat what the earlier named Zarkandar achieved in this very same race in 2011. CONNETABLE is a horse owned by the same connections as Zarkandar and has a great blend of flat speed and Stamina in his pedigree, I understand he is very highly thought of at home and has a resolve and spirit that will stand him in good stead for a true test like this. Having said all of that, it’s the form he has shown which gets me feeling quite excited by his potential run in this race. The Contenders hurdle at Sandown is often contested by very highly regarded individuals but not normally one of such inexperience. He beat Rayvin Black who has improved beyond belief this season from good handicapper to winning the Kingwell hurdle recently. Behind him was last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Peace & Co who has possibly not been the same horse this season but ran his best race of the season so far that day. But it was the nature in Which he knuckled down and out battled more experience horses which gave me the feeling he could be the real deal. I remember the day Zarkandar sprinted up the hill in this race with Daryl Jacob on board; this time around it could be Noel Fehily celebrating the same result on the main selection CONNETABLE. He has to be high on the potential list for his attempt at the 2016 Triumph Hurdle. What of the rest? The Irish are not heavily represented but it’s not a race they tend to have a large number of runners but they do have a major chance in IVANOVICH GORBATOV. A good friend who owns horses in Ireland tells me the reason for this is because the general consensus is that you can damage a horse’s future at 4 in a race of this nature. How true that is I don’t know, but in terms of winning horses progressing into top class 2 mile hurdle division it carries value, that’s for certain. Dan Skelton has himself a superb string now and I wouldn’t rule out his first Cheltenham Festival win this year. I was very impressed with KASAKH NOIR and his battling qualities on his last run. He ran as green as grass more or less the whole journey at Market Rasen but he knuckled down to beat a previous winner. That entitles him to respect and with any amount of improvement likely if he can be switched off in his races. LEONCAVALLO could take up a handicap option but he is another who has done very little wrong so far and I know first hand that Aidan Coleman thought he was a serious horse earlier on in the season. He was in the process of running another big race behind SCEAU ROYAL before unseating his rider at the last fence. He is a proven good ground horse with a good winning habit and could also outrun his odds, And finally FOOTPAD who has had a very odd season. It’s anyone’s guess where he found the required improvement from to beat a quality field at Leopardstown but he showed a good turn of foot and put himself in the picture for Willie Mullins to secure his first Triumph victory. Advice and Tips On assessment the 2016 running of the Triumph Hurdle looks a very competitive race. It could be 5/1 ish the field unless something produces something extraordinary between now and the race. My selection for the race is undoubtedly CONNETABLE @ 10/1 Skybet – 5 Pt Win I also recommend a lively each way play on WHO DARES WINS @ 14/1 Paddy Power – 2.5 Pt Each way Whatever your play is I hope race 1 on Cheltenham Gold Cup day gets you off to a flyer!
GOING: Following a dry night the going remains, good, good to soft in places. Clerk of the course Simon Claisse reported, “The chase ground is all fresh today. We’ve kept a few yards on the inside for them for today which we haven’t been on for 12 months.”
JCB Triumph Hurdle Grade 1 Cl1 2m1f
Tiger Roll jumped well and travelled like a dream through the race. On the long run to the final flight, it was clear he had the race won bar a fall. Jumping that flight and landing running, he surged clear to the line. His RPR was 4lb below that of the second horse home in 2013 and 3lb below the 2012 winner. Kentucky Hyden continued his consistent form since arriving in the UK. Slightly hampered at the second flight, he made one or two mistakes but remained in touch. Running to the final flight, he shared the lead with Guitar Pete; however, the winner had them firmly in his sights. Jumping the last fluently, he kept on for an honourable second place.It should be noted this effort pays a huge compliment to the sidelined Le Rocher who beat him ten-lengths on Trials Day at the end of January. Guitar Pete continued his excellent form over hurdles. Always prominent he led at the second last but was unable to find any extra pace. Calipto was slightly hampered at the second flight. Jumping well, he made progress down the hill towards the second last flight. Unfortunately, his stirrup iron broke and Mr Jacobs was left to ride without his irons. Despite trying to close on the leaders, a mistake at the final flight sealed his fate. He was travelling as well as the winner at the time of the incident. Rutherglen stayed on well into a never nearer fifth. He will stay further than this and should do well when reverting to the flat. Royal Irish Hussar raced on the outside and failed to settle. He was beaten after two out and looks the sort that needs smaller fields. Broughton failed to make any impression having been hampered at the third last. He may be the type to bounce back at Aintree.Plinth ran like a drain.
Vincent O´Brien County Handicap Hurdle Grade 3 Cl1 2m1f
Lac Fontana had previously shown his best form in smaller fields. Close to the leaders, he lost his position three from home. Rallying well under pressure, he came with a late, telling, run to snatch the race close to the line. He ran as though he will further if required. Arctic Fire was held up at the back of the field. Making steady headway from two out, he quickened into the lead with a furlong to run. Keeping on, he was denied by the winner close home. Montbazon showed a welcome return to form in third place equalling his 2012 Supreme Hurdle RPR. In the lead approaching the final flight he lacked the pace of the first two home up the run-in. Under top-weight Diakali recorded a career best RPR in fourth place. One imagines he will be hunting Euros in Ireland and France in the coming weeks. Flaxen Flareran up to his best in fifth place suggesting the form will hold-up. Minella Foru ran well for an inexperienced horse to finish sixth. Deep Trouble made good late headway to finish in seventh place. The handicapper appears to have him about right. However, his record in Class Three/Four races reads 2, 1, 2, 2, 1, 2. Alaivan ran another sound race to finish ninth. He remains well-handicapped with a drop in grade the suggested route. His record on right-handed tracks reads 1, 1, 1, 5, UP, 2. Lyvius ran a fair race if lacking the pace to trouble the leaders as the race developed. He is another that needs a slight drop in grade. Cash And Go displayed enough to suggest he retains the ability to win a handicap at some stage. Anay Turge never showed. Cheltenian was still in contention when pulled-up between the last two flights. One assumes something went amiss, though his trainer reports nothing has come to light. Never Enough Timeweakened out of contention at the second last. He looks to need soft ground.
Albert Bartlett Novices´ Hurdle (Registered As The Spa Novices´ Hurdle) Grade 1 Cl1 3m
Very Wood upped his game by around 14/15lb to take this event. Given a typically quiet “Carberry” ride he made headway down to join in the fun approaching the last flight. Jumping that in good style, he powered up the hill looking an out and out stayer. Possessing the scope to jump a fence, he should be a useful addition to the novice ranks next season. Deputy Dan travelled near the pace until taking over from Kings Palace after the second last. Kicked for home, he was joined at the last, which he jumped slowly. Unable to raise another effort he stuck on well for second. A fine run a ground that would have been faster than he cares for. Apache Jack made headway down the hill. Having jumped the second last, he chased the runner-up until the winner joined both horses at the final flight. Apache Jack kept on well without ever looking better than third best. Champagne West ran creditably to finish fourth equalling his best RPR rating. Kings Palace led or disputed the lead until the second last hurdle. He was well-beaten when falling at the last hurdle. His trainer suggested the ground was too quick. Briar Hill raced in behind the leaders until falling at the seventh flight. He sustained a broken bone under his eye and misses the remainder of the season. Urban Hymn made a lot of the running before fading. He is every inch a chaser for next season. Captain Cutter lost his action on the run to the last and was pulled-up.
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Grade 1 Cl1 3m2f110y
Lord Windermere’swinning RPR is 11lb below Bobs Worth in 2013 and 3lb below Synchronised’s 2012 win. Timeform have the winner 6lb below Bobs Worth’s 2012 win. Racing at the rear of the field, Lord Windermere began to make headway from the third last. At the second last, he was still in seventh place. Hard driven approaching the last fence, he ran on strongly to lead halfway up the run-in. Despite hanging to his right (under a correct right-hand drive), he held on grimly to the line.On His Own led or disputed the lead through the race. Joined at the third last, he was outpaced as the pack ran towards the second last. Having jumped the second last fence, he veered to his right hampering The Giant Bolster and Triolo D’Alene. Regaining his momentum, he jumped the last in fifth place. Carried to his right he rallied all the way to the line. The Giant Bolster was off and on the bit throughout the race. Making headway after the third last, he was bumped at the second last. Back on an even keel, he ran on gamely without ever looking as though he would win. This was his third good run in the race. Silviniaco Conti began to assert approaching the third last, turning for home looking the likely winner. Jumping the second last, he was still in front though under strong driving. Having jumped the last a length clear he wandered to his right appearing to run out of stamina in the closing half-furlong. A fine run, though his RPR was 10lb below his King George win. Bobs Worth was far from fluent through the race. Making progress after the fourth last, he was in a position to make his final assault after the third last fence. Pushed along he jumped the second last a length behind the leader. Challenging Silviniaco Conti on the run-in he wandered to his left and right finishing like a tired horse. Looking at his RPR’s since last year’s Gold Cup, one has to suggest that race has left an indelible mark. Lyreen Legend ran a blinder until hitting the second last. He appeared not to stay, but would be of interest back at three-miles. Teaforthree and Triolo D’Alene ran well up to a point, though both weakened disappointingly from the second last fence. Last Instalment was beaten when unseating his rider five from home. His tendon was damaged leading to an honourable retirement.
CGA Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup Cl2 3m2f110y
Tammys Hill appreciated the drying ground. Making headway from midfield, he move into contention at the second last and quickly asserted having jumped the final fence. Carsontown Boy outran his odds to finish second. Despite his year he appears to be improving. On The Fringe made headway three out and looked the likely winner jumping the second last. He was unable to quicken from that point. He was found out by the drying ground. Pearlysteps was an honourable fourth, whilst inexperience almost certainly found Harbour Court out as the race developed. He stayed on late in the day was reported to have finished distressed.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys´ Handicap Hurdle Cl2 2m4f110y
Don Poli came through the field to join Thomas Crapper at the second last. Set alight by his above average pilot after the final flight, he scooted clear up the run-in. A fine big horse, he is all about chasing next season. Interestingly, Sir Des Champs, who won this race in 2011, recorded a 10lb lower RPR than Don Poli. Thomas Crapper, as with several horses that ran well during the week, showed good form in course and distance handicaps last October/November. He stayed on well without troubling the winner enjoying the good ground underhoof.Caid Du Berlais ran well to finish third without ever looking likely to win. Fences and hurdles come alike to this fellow, as do left and right-handed tracks. As a five-year-old, he looks sure to improve and win more races. Urbain De Sivola lost his race at the start. Making rapid progress down the hill, he had every chance until the effort of making up lost ground saw his challenge flatten out. He has run three good races this season and deserves a change of fortune. The first four home, were well clear of the fifth horse. Une Artiste ran a fair race only tiring as on the run to the final flight. Local Hero ran well. He is far more effective on conventional tracks. Full Shift never really got involved. He is a nice prospect that should do well over fences. Vieux Lion Rouge found this all too much after three wins in novice company.
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup Handicap Grade 3 Cl1 2m110y
Savello rounded the meeting off with a convincing win despite being far from fluent on the way round. The fourth win on the day for Gigginstown Stud. Ned Buntline had his chance and ran well. Despite wearing a hood, I am not sure he was putting it all in when asked for his final effort. Claret Cloak made stealthy headway into the race taking second on the run to the penultimate fence. Unfortunately, he made a bad mistake and did well to rally for third place. Next Sensation made a brave effort to make all the running. He stayed at the head of affaires until after the last fence keeping on at the same pace close home. Relatively fresh, he would be hard to peg back at Aintree. French Opera and Eastlake were not disgraced in fifth and sixth. The latter already has a win at Aintree on his c.v.