Cheltenham '11 – Triumph Hurdle

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The Triumph Hurdle is a race run for four-year-old novices run over a total distance of two miles and one furlong. The race is run on the final day of the Festival and opens the Gold Cup day of The Festival.

With this race being for four-year-olds only, it has often pointed to inexperience to being a problem in the past. Although in recent years with more horses coming off the flat to contest this race it has been less of an issue.

2007 victor, Katchit, was the first winner of this race since Kribensis in 1988 to go on to win the Champion Hurdle. On the whole, most winners tend to need much longer trips as their careers progress. Paddy’s Return, for example, became a top class staying hurdler, Katarino won the Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree over 2m 5½f two years in a row and, most notably of all, Commanche Court won the Irish National and was placed in a Gold Cup.

Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty have won this race for the last two years with Zaynar (2009) and Soldatino (2010) and they look to pair up again with Grandouet who currently heads the market for the pairing at 6/1.

A few key stats worth taking on board for this race are:
14 of the last 16 winners won last time out.
12 of the last 17 winners started in the first 4 in the betting.
16 of the last 17 winners had won at least twice.

At this distance and class you can usually single out a handful of real contenders which is usually horses with experience off the flat (or French bred) and rate prominently in the betting market.

With a few bubbles already been burst over timber this season, it should be an interesting renewal of the big four-year-old showpiece and hopefully somewhere in amongst this lot will be a winner previewed by the blog!

Al Namix (FR) — Virginia River (FR) (Indian River (FR))
Notes: Represents winning connections of the race last year, and looks like being the first string for both Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson. A horse that thrives on racing, Grandouet has improved rapidly in recent starts leaving his early season form well behind. He heads into the Triumph Hurdle heading the market at 6/1, and the way, in which he readily put the 123 rated, Two Kisses in her place last time out suggests he holds solid claims.

Marsh Warbler
Barathea (IRE) (9.6f) — Echo River (USA) (Irish River (FR) (9.3f))
Notes: Hails from a yard which has had a massive rejuvenation in the past couple of years, and he won the Finale Hurdle (Grade 1) at Chepstow on his most recent start. After tasting defeat on his first run over hurdles, he then smashed inferior opposition at Bangor and Sedgefield before running away with the Grade 1 showpiece at Chepstow on soft ground. He comes into this race top rated on official ratings and with the yard in good form still and his decent flat form he holds strong claims here.

Sam Winner
Okawango (USA) (11.6f) — Noche (IRE) (Night Shift (USA) (8.0f))
Notes: Started off his campaign impressively with two bloodless victories at Cheltenham before getting stuck in the mud at Chepstow behind Marsh Warbler and a few others of rivals he’s due to face in the Triumph. There was talk after his win at Cheltenham the second time that Paul Nicholls had one better than him in the shape of Brampour (and that Sam Winner would go for the Supreme Novices) however it now looks like Sam Winner is likely to line up in the Triumph Hurdle but there are probably one or two who have improved past him now.

[frame_right src=”×150.jpg” href=”#”]Smad Place[/frame_right]

Smad Place
Smadoun (FR) — Bienna Star (FR) (Village Star (FR ) (6.3f))
Notes: Wasn’t showing much at home prior to his bloodless success on first run over here in England, and was bogged down in stop-start fractions at Chepstow on his next run behind Marsh Warbler. He returned to form at Wincanton in February with an effortless success over inferior rivals to score nudged out. The key to Smad Place is that he needs a sustained gallop to bring his stamina reserves into play. He’ll get this at Cheltenham as they almost always go flat out in the Triumph every year. He wouldn’t want the ground too quick according to Alan King but he has coped with good ground over in France and in my experience of French going descriptions they are usually faster than declared, so I wouldn’t worry at all about that.

Danehill Dancer (IRE) (8.1f) — Legend Has It (IRE) (Sadler’s Wells (USA) (11.3f))
Notes: An exciting recruit to the hurdling ranks for the Master of Rosewell, Dermot Weld, and the first for Moyglare Stud. She made a pleasing debut over hurdles at Punchestown before taking in the Grade 1 at Leopardstown in February. She holds an entry in the Supreme Novices but looks like heading for the Triumph, however there hasn’t been an Irish winner in the race since Scolardy in 2002 and many decent animal have tried since. She will benefit from the fillies allowance but I just don’t think she has the class of a couple of these and will come up short on the day.

Third Intention has looked very good so far and travels well throughout his race but looks to my eye a short runner, and in against top opposition which are assured to go a furious pace, his stamina will be found out heading down towards the last. Local Hero disappointed in horrible ground at Haydock last time out, and should improve for the sounder surface and the return back to Cheltenham, and holds each-way claims. Houblon Des Obeaux will need soft ground to be seen at his best and seemed to take forever to reel in Third Intention at Haydock last weekend, and he’ll likely be caught out here but should be in the top half (if he runs). Both Brampour and Kazenne have tall reputations and on the face of things have disappointed so far but wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see them involved at the finish, but probably in around fifth or sixth.

In what is another difficult year to assess the runners with a few French imports still to race (Zarkandar, Tonic Mellysee and Celtus) we can only go on what we’ve seen to date and with all that into account, Smad Place looks the one to be with at the current stage. The selection will appreciate the stronger gallop and stiffer test on offer at The Festival than what he’s encountered so far and with the stable back in the winners’ enclosure after time in the wilderness he looks a good each-way bet at 12/1, given the stable know what they need to win this race having won it with Penzance (2005) and Katchit (2008).

[notification_box]1pt each-way Smad Place @ 12/1 with Bet365, Boylesports, VCBet, Stan James, PaddyPower. [/notification_box]


One of many racing enthusiasts around the globe, love both flat and national hunt racing. Part-own a racehorse, and used to be involved in a couple of slow greyhounds around the Romford circuit. Favourite NH horses would be; Kauto Star, Denman, Challenger Du Luc, Monsignor, Guitar Pete, Harchibald, Istabraq - the list is effectively endless.... @OHRacing Google+


  1. Zakandar made a very likeable start for Nicholls this afternoon, especially given his trainers comments before the race. I’ve taken some of the 14s as that seems a fair price so hopefully he can follow in the steps of Soldatino.

    My other bet in this race is on Third Intention. I thought he ran pretty well the other week and this race will play to his strengths a lot more than anything he has contested so far. I’m not sure he’s ultimately good enough to win but fully expect him to finish in front of Local Hero and Houblon Des Obeaux so that should see him in the mix.

  2. Zakandar has been regarded as every inch a horse for next year by Paul Nicholls, so if I was him I’d avoid the Triumph Hurdle and go a different route. The Triumph is traditionally a very hard race for young hurdlers, so if Nicholls feels he wont be primed until next year, I wouldn’t be going for the race – personally.

    I did have a brief look at Third Intention, and he does travel well in his races, too well infact but to my untrained eye he looks a short-runner and I just feel that hill will find him out again, especially in such a strongly run race we come to expect.

  3. With Kazzene regressing at a rate of knots, Third Intention is my main hope. He has refused to settle on both prior starts for the majority of the race, but has still cruised into contention before emptying out after the last. Given a bigger field, a stronger pace and better ground, I think he’ll settle a lot better thus having more of a finish, but the Cheltenham Hill will be the true test. But for pulling so hard, he would have three wins to his name and therefore would be half the price he is now.
    I wasn’t as impressed by Unaccompanied as some and Weld continues to have a poor festival record, as I found out to my cost last year, so I fear Grandouet the most from the opposition.

  4. Your probably correct Duke and I actually think skipping the Triumph would be the better move but if they don’t go, it won’t matter as I have backed him NRNB seen as Bet365 have been kind enough to offer that on all the Festival races now.

  5. I’d actually say on reflection, 14/1 for Zakandar is pretty big. The figures from his win today were very strong across the board and was highly impressed by his hurdling, especially for a debut. As the brother of Zarkava, this may in fact be the best time to back him as in the future, I’d expect him to be both under-priced and over-bet. Provisional on him running here that is, which I think he probably will.

  6. Have to say I was seriously impressed with Zarkandar at Kempton at the weekend and duly availed myself to the 14/1 on offer.

    Hes now shortened up and the rater gave him 145 for his first run over hurdles (Soldatino clocked 148 after 2, and Grandouet 148 after 7) so there is definite room for improvement and he ranks a certainty with me.


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