Tag Archives: Triumph Hurdle

Thank You Coral – Triumph Selection

Don't you just love to bet when you can have your money back if you lose?

We are going to look at the first race again today and use that Coral offer to have a risk free bet and to help us we are going to turn to one of my favourite tipsters, Mark Foley.

Mark has 5 selections at the Festival today, including some juicy big priced shots. You can get access to all of his selections for the final day as well as all his Trainer Trends selections until the end of March for just £14.99 – Click Here.

This will be the last chance to get access to Mark's expertise for 6 weeks at this bargain price. Click Here

So onto the Triumph Hurdle and over to Mark…

FRIDAY 15 MARCH 1.30 – JCB TRIUMPH HURDLE – GRADE 1 – 2M 1F.

A REASONABLE STATS RACE. Selection – Rolling Star

The introduction of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap in 2005 has had an impact on this race, 2011 winner Zarkandar became the first horse to win it after just one run over hurdles, and furthermore three of the last five winners had run no more than twice over hurdles.

Whereas this race used to be a bookies benefit, it has been far more reliable since the introduction of the Fred Winter, up until last year the last seven winners had all came from the first four in the betting.

Countrywide Flame was a real stat buster last year, as all but 2 of the last 18 winners had won LTO, as did the 2nd and 3rd last year and the first 3 home the year before. All but one of the last seven winners were all rated 138.

Look to the flat for the winner; just one of the last fifteen winners was rated lower than 80 on the flat and the last 14 Triumph winners also ran over at least 12f on the flat and that’s important in what is essentially a test of stamina for a four-year-old.

Nicky Henderson has won 2 of the last 4 renewals Barry Geraghty was aboard both of his winners to take his Triumph tally to three.

Willie Mullins and Alan King also have a good recent record in the race, although only 5 Irish trained horses have made the frame in the last 8 years and the last Irish trained winner was Scholardy in 2002.

Three of the last four winners were French imports including Zaynar whose 55 days break between winning his final prep race and the Triumph is the longest since Duke of Monmouth defied a 78-day absence back in 1992.

All but 2 of the last 21 runners had their final prep run in February and all but one of the last eight winners did not make their hurdling debut until at least December; 4 of those did not race over hurdles until at least January (last year’s winner debuted in November). Four of the last nine winners weren’t seen until January, with two of the last three Triumph winners being triumphant in the Adonis, a race that has produced 5 of the last 13 winners of the Triumph, along with Supreme Novices winner Binocular.

The roll call of Adonis winners is impressive; Zarkander, Binocular, Punjabi, Trouble at Bay and Well Chief since 2003 alone.

First 4 in the betting 6/6
Raced LTO in February 18/20
Won LTO 16/19
Rated 80 on the flat 14/15
Raced over at least 12f on flat 14/15

The Irish believe they have the ammunition to provide their strongest challenge for years in the shape of Our Conor, who they believe can give them their first win since 2002 and only their 2nd win in the past 15 years. However the fact that only 5 Irish runners have even made the frame in the last 8 renewals would suggest that English juvenile form is a lot stronger than over the sea and although Our Conor looked very impressive in beating Diakali, his jumping left a lot to be desired.

Our Connor (Rated 145) has had 3 runs over timber and debuted in November. All 3 runs were on Soft or Heavy and he never ran further than 9f on the flat and his profile certainly doesn’t fit that of a recent winner. He looked impressive in beating Diakali.

Diakali: Rated 140 Beaten by Our Conor. Raced over 12f on the flat, 3 runs debuted in November.

Far West: (Rated 145) Never raced on Flat all 4 wins on Soft and Heavy.

Irish Saint: Won the Adonis beating Vasco De Roncary, the front two a long way clear. However, Irish Saint was beaten by Rolling Star (Rated 149, Raced over 15f on flat) a horse who was making his British debut, the 2 of them a long way clear. Given the fact that Rolling Star beat the Adonis winner on debut and is trained by Nicky Henderson (has won the race 5 times) I have to side with Rolling Star, especially with more rain forecast.

Today's Selection courtesy of Trainer Trends

Cheltenham 1.30 Rolling Star – Win Bet – 11/4 Coral (Money Back bet token if it loses)

* There are better prices available on this selection this morning, notably 7/2 Blue Square, Coral are best odds guaranteed so essentially you are getting a free bet at 11/4 or starting price if it's bigger

Why Hurricane Fly has to be layed in the Champion Hurdle

With Cheltenham just around the corner I'm very pleased to have secured the services of Mark Foley to guide us through the festival.

Mark is a stats and trends supremo and is in rude profit at his Trainer Trends tipping service.

He will be the brains behind a tipping service for the festival but in the lead up we have some of his thoughts on the ante post markets.

Why Hurricane Fly has to be layed in the Champion Hurdle:

Recommendations:
Grandouet 11/2 EW (Paddy Power)
Lay Hurricane Fly to win.

The age factor in the Champion hurdle:

The Imperial Cup at Sandown is raced a week before the Cheltenham festival and back in 2007 the run up to the race was dominated by the argument about whether Gaspara could overcome one of the longest running age stats in racing and become the first 4 yo winner of the race in over 60 years.

Gaspara won easily by six lengths and I asked myself if it was just a blip or whether, as I had suspected for a while horses were maturing younger.

The French influence has been far more prevalent over the past couple of decades in National Hunt racing with the vogue led by Martin Pipe, towards French bred horses, who seemed to mature earlier and were bred for speed rather than stamina.

The Champion hurdle may well have been affected by this growing French influence more than any other major race. Irish bred runners dominated during the Nineties and the early Noughties; between 1998 and 2006 Irish bred runners won all but two of the renewals, but that has all changed in recent years, we have seen two French Bred Champions and they have also claimed a third of the total places available.

This despite the fact that six of the French bred runners aged 8 or older failed to make the frame, whereas the runners aged 7 or younger won 2 renewals with a further 4 making the frame from a total of only 15 runners.

Most importantly, from a punting point of view it’s interesting to see that the younger French bred horses still manage to slip under the radar. Thousand Stars was 4th at 33/1 in 2011; Binocular won at 9/1 in 2010 and Zaynar was 3rd (15/2) and of course Sublimity won the 2007 renewal at 16/1.

Fancied 8 year olds

Since 2007 twelve 8 year olds have run in the Champion Hurdle and all 12 have been beaten with only 3 of them making the frame. It wasn’t as if they weren’t fancied either, as mentioned already Hurricane Fly added his name to this illustrious list last year after starting at odds on following on from Binocular the year before.

Ah, but Hurricane Fly is a class above the others, I hear you say, yet he failed last year as an 8yo when many believed he only had to turn up to win. Time waits for no man, (or horse) just ask Harchibald, Brave Inca, Hardy Eustace and even the great Istabraq.

Rooster Booster did it in 2003 as a 9yo, but that was arguably the weakest Champion Hurdle in a long time, in a race where there were only 3 horses rated 160 plus. To put that into context, all but one of the 10 runners last year were rated 160 plus; there were 8 in the 2011 race and 9 when Binocular won in 2009.

Rooster Booster’s only three serious rivals in that 2003 renewal were Intersky Falcon, Rhinestone Cowboy and Like a Butterfly, hardly names that will go down in the annals of racing history.

The French influence.

Horses would appear to mature at a younger age now; the Triumph (The 4 year old championship race) used to have a reputation for bottoming horses and ruining them during their 5 yo season and was given as one of the main reasons for the 5yo’s poor 1 from 50 record in the Champion Hurdle the following season.

However, I always dismiss a stat until I’ve seen the SP’s of the runners involved; if all 50 of the youngsters went off at 100/1 then even with just the one winner they would have punched above their weight. Since 1997 only nine of the 5 yos have gone off in single figures and on the whole the runners that went off in single figures have performed well, especially in recent years.

How the 5 yos performed in the Champion Hurdle.

The 2007 renewal saw the one disappointing well supported 5yo; Detroit City, who won the Triumph then became the first 4yo for 27 year to complete the Cheltenham/Aintree double. (He also took the Cesarawich on the flat for good measure).

He won the Greatwood by 14 lengths on his seasonal reappearance as a 5yo and after he took the scalp of Hardy Eustace he went into the Champion hurdle as a worthy favourite on the back on 8 hurdles runs undefeated. He was never going on the day and finished 6th (28/1 shot, the 5yo Afsoun was just touched off for 2nd place and had been beaten 14 lengths by Detroit City in the Triumph.)

Katchit became the first Triumph Hurdle winner to win the Champion Hurdle since Persian War in 1968 (73 five-year-olds had been beaten in the race since the 5 yo See You Then triumphed back in 1985) and it’s often said that it was a very soft Champions race that Katchit won but there were 6 runners rated 160 plus in that 2008 renewal including defending Champion Sublimity, Afsoun, Sizing Europe, Harchibald and Ebizyan, who had won last year’s Supreme Novice. Not a vintage renewal, but certainly not a poor one.

For the 2009 Champion Hurdle Binocular, who had side stepped the Triumph (finished 2nd in the Supreme) went off as favourite after beating beat Triumph winner Celestial Halo at Aintree by 7l. Nicky Henderson made the cardinal sin of not getting a recent run into him before the Champion hurdle race; the First six home were aged 5 or 6 that year a half a length separated the first 3 home; the 2nd, 3rd and 4th were all 5 yos.

The following year Triumph winner Zaynar finished 3rd after winning the Triumph. The message would appear to be that 4 and 5 yo runners are more robust than they used to be 10 to 15 years ago and more capable of recovering in time from a punishing race like the Triumph to do themselves justice in the Champion Hurdle.

This year’s renewal.
There are 4 French bred younger horses that fit the bill in this year’s renewal.
Grandouet OR 166.
Zaidpour OR 158.
Trifolium OR 147.
Balder Success OR 145.

Bearing in mind that this is a race for Champions, you would have needed to be rated 156 to place in recent years and unless Trifolium or Balder Success can show drastic improvement in the next seven weeks they look unlikely to be good enough this year.

Zaidpour would be interesting if the race was run on Heavy ground, but when you consider that since 1997 the ground has only been Soft once and the drainage system at Cheltenham is possibly the best in the country, that seems unlikely.

Which leaves us with Grandouet who has a liking for Cheltenham; he was runner up in only his 2nd career race in the Triumph trial and then finished 3rd to Zarkander in the Triumph.

He then went on to win the Irish Juvenile and returned to Prestbury Park just before Xmas to take the Grade 2 Stan James hurdle.

Injury forced him to miss the rest last season and he returned to defend his Stan James crown last month and made a most satisfactory return, going down 2 lengths to old rival Zarkander and beating last year’s Champion Hurdle winner Rock on Ruby on heavy ground. When you consider that Zarkander had the benefit of a recent run and was getting 4lb off Grandouet it is easy to envisage him reversing the placings come May on better ground.

The Nicky Henderson factor.

Since 2007 Nicky Henderson has had 11 runners in the Champion Hurdle; 2 have won and 5 have placed.
With what we know it should come as no surprise to find that the three 7 and 8 yo runners all failed to place.
The eight 5 and 6 yo runners won 2 renewals and only one of the 8 runners failed to make the frame.
All four 5yo runners placed without winning.
Two of the 6yo runners won.

The message is clear- in recent years Nicky Henderson doesn’t enter a young runner in the Champion Hurdle unless he believes they have a realistic chance of at least making the frame.

This year he has eight entries: Khyber Kim, Punjabi, Binocular, General Miller and Oscar Whiskey are all at least 8yo.
Cash and Go and Grandouet are all 6yos; Grandouet is rated 166; Cash and Go at 145 would need to improve 10lb to even be considered as place material.

Can market leader Hurricane Fly be beaten?

I opposed Hurricane fly in this race last year as an 8 yo and apart from his age I thought he might struggle off a stronger pace than when taking this race the year before and he finished third after a strong early pace.

Once again he has looked imperious in small fields on bad ground this year, where the pace has been far from electric. With Overturn and Rock on Ruby both likely to crank it up from some way out it would come as no surprise to see him struggle again in a truly run race.

In the championship races at the festival, the most prestigious British race so far that season has been a good marker.
In the last 10 years half of the Gold Cup winners also won the King George; the Long Walk has provided the World Hurdle winner 4 times and the winner of the Tingle Creek has won the Champion Chase twice in the last 10 years.

The exception in the Champion hurdle; no winner of the Christmas Hurdle has won the Champion Hurdle in the last decade and the other two main trials, The Bula and The Fighting Fifth have only produced one winner each. Half of the last 10 Champion Hurdle winners have been Irish and the best Irish 2m hurdlers don’t often contest the British trials, as the equivalent trials are often held in close proximity to their British counterparts.

Furthermore, unlike the other 3 championship races, the Champion Hurdle trials tend not to be run at a true pace and the recent prolonged bad ground has just made the crawl longer and the sprint shorter in the trial races. Patrick Veitch made the point that the reason recent form so often goes out of the window in the Championship races is that they are run at an increased pace for far longer than even in most Grade 1 races, sprinting off a slow pace is a different ballgame to quickening off an end-to-end gallop.

That’s the reason why previous festival form in the Grade 1 races is so important and last year’s renewal is often the best trial at a festival race as the horse has already proved that it can handle the increased pace under similar conditions.

When Hurricane Fly won this race in 2011, the time was 3:51.71, and it wasn’t one of the faster races in recent years. A year later on the same Going the winning time was 3:50.1, almost 2 seconds quicker and Hurricane Fly was beaten 5 lengths.

The clock says he ran his race and his time was similar to his winning time a year earlier, the English trained front two were superior horses on the day, which casts doubt on the merit of his 2011 win. Can he equal those performance as a 9yo? history tells us that the answer is no and that he is past his prime.

With the last 4 winners currently entered along with the best of the younger generation The Hurricane would need to achieve a feat that Istabraq, Hardy Eustace and Brave Inca found beyond them. That was during a period when the Irish hurdlers totally dominated their English counterparts.

It would appear that hurdlers reach their prime as either a 6 or 7 yo these days and in a vintage looking year I would be very surprised to see Hurricane Fly win.

Grandouet on the other hand has a lot going for him and it will be disappointing if he doesn’t make the frame at the very least.

Today's Selection courtesy of Trainer Trends

Catterick 2.05 Abbey Storm – win bet

JCB Triumph Hurdle Selection

Favourite backers are having a good Cheltenham with a good number of favourites scooting home.

Even better news if you work in a top stable!

I read that a member of Nicky Henderson's stable has won a million pounds on a £50 accumulator.

I'm guessing it's not a stable lad who can afford to risk £50 on an accumulator.

The bet was placed with those nice people at Bet365

We again have Mark Foley's trend analysis of the first race…

1:30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle – Grade 1 – 2m1f

Since the introduction of the Fred Winter this championship race for juveniles has taken on a different nature in recent years; whereas a big priced winner wasn’t unusual in the past, the last seven winners all came from the first four in the betting.

However some things haven’t changed, the emphasis is on stamina and you are looking towards a horse that ran over at least 12f on the flat and a runner with the benefit of a recent win. The Adonis is still by far the best trial.

The last three winners were all French imports including Zaynar whose 55 days absence between winning his final prep race and the Triumph is the longest since 1992.

Short list:
Baby Mix
Darroun
Pearl Swan

Baby Mix went to the head of the market when he won the Triumph trial here in December and then ran too badly to be true in January. He came back to form with a bang in the Adonis.

The Adonis Hurdle has produced four recent winners, including three of the last six, including last year’s winner Zarkander. Five of the last 12 winners achieved the Adonis/Triumph double and it would probably have been six had Binocular not been re-routed to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson has won 2 of the last 3 renewals and is the leading trainer in the race's history with five wins but doesn’t have a runner this year and is giving someone else a chance to win this week.

Alan King and Willie Mullins also have a good recent record in the race and Mullins has been the flag bearer for the Irish, only 4 Irish trained horses have made the frame in the last 7 years and the last Irish trained winner was Scholardy in 2002.

With the Nicholls and King runners struggling to find the winners enclosure I’m happy to go with the trends for this one.

Selection: Baby Mix 7/1 with Ladbrokes.
Danger: Grumeti
EW Selection; Darroun

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