Royal Irish Hussar taken to return to form in Triumph Hurdle 2014.

Cheltenham ’14 – Triumph Hurdle

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Royal Irish Hussar taken to return to form in Triumph Hurdle 2014.
Royal Irish Hussar taken to return to form in Triumph Hurdle 2014.

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.

In the last 15 years, only one filly has been successful in landing the Triumph Hurdle and that was as far back as Francois Doumen’s Snow Drop in 2000, although Unaccompanied came 2nd to Zarkandar in 2011 so it has been proven if you are a high-class filly you can play a hand in this race so they can’t be completely discounted.

  • All 15 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.
  • 16 of the last 19 Triumph Hurdle winners won their last start prior to the Triumph Hurdle.

Calipto
Califet (FR) — Peutiot (FR) (Valanour (IRE) (9.7f))
Notes: Second on his final start for Guy Cherel over at Auteuil before being transferred to the care of Paul Nicholls, Calipto made a winning debut for his trainer at Newbury when galloping away from Activial (since won Adonis Juvenile Hurdle), and highly-regarded duo of Chocala and Dawalan. He is a strong galloping sort who will be suited to a searching gallop we’ve become accustomed to in this race. He followed that effort up with another victory at Newbury, this time penalised for his win in November, and taking on older horses for the first time but once again he travelled well into the race and galloped strongly all the way to the line. He clearly hasn’t beaten much on that last run, but that would have put him spot on for this, he is most certainly respected.

Le Rocher
Saint Des Saints (FR) — Belle Du Roi (FR) (Adieu Au Roi (IRE) (9.8f))
Notes: This in my opinion should be a worthy favourite for the race, and has impressed with everything I’ve seen of him this campaign. Hailing from the Nick Williams yard who is known to get his horses going early over in France, he started off his English campaign with a victory in the Future Champions (Grade 1) at Chepstow on bottomless ground. He followed that up with an imperious success at Cheltenham when blasting away from the consistent Kentucky Hyden, and highly regarded Vincenzo Mio to win in a very quick time. The prospect is of quicker ground is very much an unknown given almost all of his runs thus far have been on soft or worse, that said he heads to the race next week with a major chance, and in my eyes topping the market.

Guitar Pete
Dark Angel (IRE) (7.2f) — Innishmore (IRE) (Lear Fan (USA) (10.3f))
Notes: A gelded son of Dark Angel who was only modest on the flat last season. Has clearly improved for the switch to hurdles for Dessie Hughes, who is bidding to win this race for the second time in two years having been successful with Our Conor twelve months ago. No match for Royal Irish Hussar in the Trial here back in November but it was a relatively quick turnaround from his previous run so that effort can likely be upgraded slightly. Backed up that run with two victories back in his native Ireland, and his most recent of those in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) was the most impressive of the lot. He isn’t flash by any means, but he gets the job done and travels well through his races and we can be sure with Dessie Hughes overseeing his preparation he’ll be finely tuned for the big day to perform to his best – whether that will be good enough, time will tell.

Broughton
Teofilo (IRE) (10.6f) — Boccassini (GER) (Artan (IRE) (10.0f))
Notes: A fair handicapper on the flat for Mark Johnston last term, he has made a seamless transition to hurdles thus far. He made his debut at Doncaster where he was involved in a prolonged duel with the highly-regarded Fox Norton from the Nick Williams stable, narrowly missing out on the day. He followed that up with a smooth success in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial at Musselburgh on his most recent effort. He is very much one on my shortlist, and heads to the race with bold claims of victory.

Tiger Roll
Authorized (IRE) (11.4f) — Swiss Roll (IRE) (Entrepreneur (9.6f))
Notes: Just the two starts over hurdles, each performance coming for different trainers. A winner of what looked a poor race at Market Rasen last November, he was snapped up by Gigginstown Stud and send across the Irish Sea to Gordon Elliott. Off that track since his debut effort, he made his debut for Gordon in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) at Leopardstown in February and put forward a very promising effort behind Guitar Pete. He may have got a little closer to the leader but for a fiddly mistake at the last, in which the rider dropped his whip. Will need to improve again for that effort but it isn’t beyond the wildest realms of the imagination and he is very much a dark horse in this very open contest.

Royal Irish Hussar
Galileo (IRE) (11.2f) — Adjalisa (IRE) (Darshaan (11.7f))
Notes: Narrowly saw off Fox Norton when benefitting from that one’s mistake at the last on debut at Market Rasen back in September. He then readily saw off Cadouduff and Zamoyski at Wetherby, making all in a good time to record a facile success. The Galileo entire followed that Wetherby effort up with an impressive success at Cheltenham when slamming Guitar Pete amongst others in the Triumph Hurdle Trial. That rival has since gone on to win two graded events on his next two starts, which suggests this form is solid, and that at Doncaster last time something went wrong as he is a much better animal than the distant third to Fox Norton that we saw that day. Hasn’t been seen since and would become the first horse in 16 renewals to win the Triumph after a break of more than 55 days – a tough ask, but highly respected.

Gitane Du Berlais
Balko (FR) — Boheme Du Berlais (FR) (Simon Du Desert (FR))
Notes: It was possible she would line up for the Fred Winter until the Willie Mullins juveniles have all fallen by the wayside in recent weeks, and it now looks possible she’ll be rerouted towards the Triumph. She looked slow when beaten on decent ground behind Guitar Pete in November, but has followed that up with two impressive victories back on soft ground on her most recent starts. It may have been ring rustiness which accounted for her defeat at Down Royal, but it could also be down to her needing slow ground which judging by her French form looks the more likely explanation. She is a horse I respect highly, and would enter highly in my calculations were we to get a soft ground Friday – she would be the first mare to win this since Snow Drop in 2000, but on possible decent ground it looks a tough ask to me.

OTHERS
Rutherglen is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles and comes here attempting to defend his unbeaten record under national hunt rules. Very impressive at Musselburgh on his latest hurdle start, he finalised his prep for this with a victory on the flat at Kempton which ought to put him spot on for this fitness wise.

Activial was no match for Calipto on his debut for Harry Fry back in November, but followed that effort up with success at Kempton in the Adonis last month. Isn’t a definite to run in this, and if you were to fancy him then you’d have to fancy Calipto. Chances are he’ll come up short against this higher level of opposition.

Pearl Castle was beaten on debut over hurdles, but backed that up with an impressive success at Doncaster when thumping his opposition by sixteen lengths. Followed that up recently with another victory over C&D but doesn’t quite look up to the class required to win this race for me.

Kentucky Hyden has good decent form at Cheltenham and has finished runner up on his last three starts, twice behind one of the main market principles here in Le Rocher. Hard to see him turning that form around and he could well go down one of the handicap routes instead.

VERDICT
A very open renewal once again for the Triumph Hurdle, and I doubt we’ll see a winner as impressive as we got twelve months ago with Our Conor.

That said I think the result of this race will come down to the state of the ground. Historically speaking we usually end up having decent ground by the Friday of The Festival, and should the ground dry out it’ll put forth question marks about all the soft ground form we’ve seen throughout the winter months.

Le Rocher deserves his position at the head of the market, and if you’re going on form alone then to me he is the most likely winner of this race. His effort last time is still fresh in the memory and a repeat of that effort sends him very close.

From Ireland; Guitar Pete and Tiger Roll look the two with the best chances. Both are likely to improve for better ground and have very decent form in the book, and it is worth noting that the trainer of Guitar Pete won the Spring Juvenile Hurdle with Our Conor before victory in this last year, so it is worth keeping Guitar Pete on side.

Calipto has won two races at Newbury for Paul Nicholls and will improve for a stronger stamina test likely to be thrown up by this, but I can’t see him being good enough, and is far too short in the market for me.

Gitane Du Berlais can be a potent threat to these should the ground come up soft on the last day, and as that is very much an unknown I can’t advise a bet on her as she looks very ground dependent based on what I’ve seen so far – but she has to be respected.

Broughton has impressed me since switching to hurdles, a horse with plenty of size and scope about him he forced Fox Norton to pull out all the stops at Doncaster on his debut (although in receipt of weight from that rival) and then followed that up with an effortless display at Musselburgh. He looks like he’ll make it at this winter game, and with the prospect of better ground coming into play leaves him very dangerous in this – he is very high on my shortlist.

However I do think the value in this lies with a horse who hasn’t been seen since a disappointing effort at Doncaster, a track which in my opinion you either like or you absolutely hate with no in-between. ROYAL IRISH HUSSAR will have to defy both the recent run trend, and also coming into the race off the back of a loss is far from ideal. I have no idea why he hasn’t been seen since that run at Doncaster and there has been nothing said in the media to explain that performance, so I can only assume he’s been kept back due to bad ground this winter and Henderson will send him straight there fit enough to do a job on ground more likely to suit him.

He was superb when beating Guitar Pete here back in November, and galloped on strongly in a very good time after putting them to the sword over course and distance – and there is a chance he is overpriced here on the basis of that poor effort last time, and I’m going to give him a chance to prove that run all wrong.

1pt win Royal Irish Hussar @ 16-1 with William Hill.

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+

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