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 Cheltenham Festival and opens the card for what is known as ‘Gold Cup Day.’
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, most notably with Zarkandar who only had one prior hurdles start when taking the Triumph Hurdle in 2011.
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.
Between them Nicky Henderson, Alan King and Paul Nicholls have fairly dominated this race from 2005 up to 2011, Phillip Hobbs striking in 2006 with Detroit City and more recently John Quinn in 2012 with Countrywide Flame have been the only breaks to their dominance.
Zarkandar winner of this race in 2011 was the latest horse unable to complete the Triumph Hurdle/Champion Hurdle double that so many of other previous winners also failed. Countrywide Flame is going to be the latest to attempt the feat that Katchit achieved in 2007, but history dictates he’s going to struggle (just don’t tell Charlie).
A few key stats to take a look at regarding this race;
All 14 of recent Triumph Hurdle winners had their most recent run between 19 and 55 days prior to the Triumph Hurdle.
There has only been one once-raced hurdler to win the Triumph Hurdle in the last 27 years; that was Zarkandar in 2011.
15 of the last 18 Triumph Hurdle winners won their last start prior to the Triumph Hurdle.
In the last 15 years, only one filly has been successful in landing the Triumph Hurdle and you have to go back as far as Snow Drop in 2000, although Unaccompanied came 2nd to Zarkandar in 2011.
Smadoun (FR) — Lyli Rose (FR) (Lyphard´s Wish (FR ) (9.6f))
Notes: Hailing from the powerful Seven Barrows team who have done so well in this race in recent years. An average flat horses at the smaller tracks in France he made a winning hurdles debut at Auteuil in impressive fashion, before lowering the colours of the Paul Nicholls hot-pot Irish Saint in the Finesse Hurdle at Cheltenham in January. He travelled very strongly on testing ground and really quickened smartly on the run-in to edge past the Paul Nicholls trained in-mate. He heads to The Festival with an air of class about him, and although untried on better ground his action suggests he shouldn’t have a problem with it.
Saint Des Saints (FR) — Minirose (FR) (Mansonnien (FR ) (16.9f))
Notes: A winner of the Prix Finot at Auteuil before switching across to Paul Nicholls and made an impressive hurdling debut at Kempton in desperate ground. He led throughout his most recent contest when beaten by Rolling Star and he kept going all the way to the line suggesting to me he’d benefit from an end-to-end gallop you are likely to encounter in a championship race, he doesn’t look short on stamina to me. The one concern I would have would be his action, as to me he has displayed a classic soft ground action which will make him less effective on better ground in the spring. Regarded as an exciting chaser for the future it might be that Paul Nicholls will opt to swerve the Triumph Hurdle with this one, having already got Far West in the race amongst other potential entries but it’ll be interesting to see if he decides to run him how he gets on.
Jeremy (USA) (7.5f) — Flamands (IRE) (Sadler´s Wells (USA) (11.4f))
Notes: Looks like bringing across the best Irish form based on his impressive success at the weekend in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown. He had several of these behind him in that race when winning easily and it is difficult to imagine either of them reversing form in the Triumph Hurdle in March. A horse with a very likeable attitude and wouldn’t mind the potential better ground either he heads to the Cheltenham Festival with solid claims for trainer Dessie Hughes.
Dylan Thomas (IRE) (10.5f) — Propaganda (IRE) (Sadler´s Wells (USA) (11.4f))
Notes: An easy winner over his debut over hurdles, he was travelling best of all when seemingly having the race at his mercy at Chepstow in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle when falling at the last. Hasn’t been seen since that and hopefully the heavy fall suffered hasn’t left its mark on this bright young hurdling prospect. Tim Vaughan has him entered in for a potential run on the 16th February at Haydock and that should tell us more about his chances in March and if he comes through that assignment with flying colours it’ll be all systems go to The Festival for the son of Dylan Thomas.
Poliglote (10.6f) — Far Away Girl (FR) (Cadoudal (FR ) (18.0f))
Notes: Looking like the possible leading light from the Paul Nicholls camp, and holds a provisional entry at Ascot on the 16th February where if he were to take up that assignment could potentially face the likes of River Maigue in what would be an enthralling clash. An easy winner on his UK debut for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh he thrashed the well touted Alan King runner Handazan by 12 lengths in an easy success. The son of Poliglote then improved on that run to readily account for the useful Vasco Du Ronceray in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham in November, before handing out another drubbing to Handazan (this time giving weight) increasing that advantage to an easy 19 lengths over the King inmate. He appears to have a big of a knee action which gives slight cause for concern with a view to the usual decent ground at Cheltenham on the Friday but I think he’ll be able to cope fine with conditions and looks a very high-class recruit for Team Ditcheat.
Lac Fontana clearly has a big reputation back home at Ditcheat and was well supported to make a winning UK debut at Newbury the weekend but his ability to jump hurdles fluently has to be questioned on that performance and he’ll need to improve heaps if he is to figure in the big race in March.
Kashmir Peak is looking like the best prospect from up north and he got the job done at Doncaster two starts ago before unseating his rider when travelling ominously well at Musselburgh the last day. The yard also appear to have another fair sort in Hidden Justice, and having won this race with Countrywide Flame last season neither can be dismissed in an ultra competitive affair.
Vasco Du Ronceray pulled far too hard in the early stages at Doncaster last time and effectively gave up his chance of winning due to his behaviour in the early part of the race, but I think the faster nature of the Triumph Hurdle will enable him to settle in amongst a large field, and better ground ought to suit also – a lively outsider at this stage.
Sametegal‘s form ties in with Kashmir Peak on their Doncaster running but he looks like a possible third string for the Paul Nicholls camp so it is hard to imagine him winning.
Diakali and Blood Cotil represent the Willie Mullins stable but both horses had their reputations dented when readily accounted for by Our Conor last time and it is hard to image either horse reversing placings with Dessie Hughes’ gelded son of Jeremy.
Chris Pea Green has looked good on his two hurdling starts to date and showed a good turn of foot to settle things last time out in a decent race. He is an outsider with a chance of making the frame but is likely to come up short.
From the unraced sorts Nicky Henderson has a potential top-class recruit on his hands in the shape of the Alan Spence owned Courtesy Call. A high-class staying handicapper on the flat he has yet to make his debut over hurdles, and should he take up an engagement in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton at the end of this month it may be worth taking note.
Alan King has an interesting runner in the shape of Uriah Heep who was formerly with Sir Michael Stoute. Rated 91 at his peak on the flat, that is no doubt an over-inflated rating in line with his actual ability but he could make up into a useful hurdling sort in time.
After sifting through the merits of each horse you can give realistic chances to plenty in this field.
Our Conor looks about the best Ireland have to offer this season having dealt with some decent horses at Leopardstown the weekend, he’ll have no problems with prospected quicker ground in March and heads to the festival with a solid chance.
A quick glance at the exchanges suggests Irish Saint is heading elsewhere after his reversal at Cheltenham last time, and in beating him Rolling Star looked a very good prospect for the Nicky Henderson team. Nothing special on the flat in France he has really taken to hurdling and he travelled supremely well on his last run and has a very good chance in March.
It’ll be interesting to see what Nicky Henderson introduces into the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton at the end of this month. Having introduced Soldatino to win that and then this race in 2010, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on Courtesy Call should he take up an entry in that race.
Paul Nicholls is another to watch out for with his entrants in both the Dovecote and Adonis Hurdle, for he saddled Dodging Bullets to finish second in the Dovecote on his hurdling bow before taking fourth in the Triumph Hurdle last season, and a year prior to that Zarkandar made his debut in the Adonis Hurdle before winning the Triumph Hurdle.
In the interests of this preview though I need to assess the field on what I’ve seen so far and I’m most taken with the Paul Nicholls trained FAR WEST who has looked seriously impressive on all his three starts to date.
Has a slight knee action which the same can be said for a few of these at the head of the markets, I really love the way he sees out his races strongly and think the race will fit around him perfectly, as the larger field and stronger pace will enable to harness his ability and settle in the early stages of the race before outstaying his rivals on the run towards the last.
That’s what I think! What do you think?