The final day of the Cheltenham Festival kicks-off with the four-year-old hurdlers feature, which has a habit of producing some real-top class future prospects that have gone on to grace Prestbury Park in years to come. Celestial Halo, Zaynar and Katchit all won this race before becoming leading horses within in the hurdle ranks.
This recent high standard of winning horses has resulted from the introduction of an alternative handicap for juveniles in the form of the Fred Winter Handicap in 2005.
Despite the race being solely for juveniles it has been a decent pointer for future Champion Hurdle winners, with three horses doing the Triumph-Champion Hurdle double. Persian War became a multiple Champion Hurdle winner between 1968-1970 after landing the Triumph in 1967, Kribensis reeled off the Triumph in 1988 and then the Champion two years later and the Alan King-trained Katchit won the Champion as a five-year-old in 2008 a year after winning the Triumph.
Three could become four this season however, as last year’s impressive winner Zarkandar is among the market leaders for this season’s Champion. The form of the 2011 race has worked out extremely well and was probably one of the hottest renewals in recent memory.
JCB Triumph Hurdle Tips
Alan King trained Grumeti looks a cracking bet at 10/1 after winning the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial with a superb effort. Take advantage of Ladbrokes’s free £50/€50 bet as a saver for all visitors of Footybunker.com to spend on any race at Cheltenham! Claim here!
Third-placed Grandouet won the International Hurdle at Cheltenham this season and is also a leading contender for the Champion while Unaccompanied, who finished second, landed the Istabraq Hurdle earlier this season and should continue to flourish for her trainer Dermot Weld. Even the tenth, Smad Place, came out and won a Grade Two event by seven lengths on his reappearance.
Jockey-wise the race has an out of the ordinary name attached to its roll of honour in legendary Flat jockey Lester Piggott, who landed the race on King Charlemagne when run at Hurst Park in 1954.
When looking for a punting angle on the race it’s pays to look towards the head of the market as all of the last seven winners have featured in the first four of the betting.
The current ante-post favourite is Sadlers Risk, trained by Phillip Hobbs’, who saddled Detroit City in 2006 and Rooster Booster in 2003 to land the event. Trend followers will be hugely impressed with the profile of the Hobbs’ horse. Not only does he fit the bill of being a former high-class performer on the Flat (the last 13 Triumph winners that had a Flat campaign and ran over 1m4f at least once) he also didn’t make his hurdling debut till December – just like seven of the last eight winners.
His debut at Kempton was arguably one of the most impressive performances by a four-year-old this season. The 95-rated Flat performer jumped adequately but galloped clear in the final stages to suggest that stamina is the name of his game.
Alan King has got a brilliant record with juvenile hurdlers and Grumeti looks his first string for the Triumph this season. He has experience over hurdles on his side after tackling three races under rules since switching from the Flat, where he was rated 80 for Michael Bell. His latest performance, where he finished a head inferior to Pearl Swan in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial but was given the race in the stewards’ room, was a top-class effort and makes him a real player for the Triumph.
Paul Nicholls has been rather coy playing his Triumph hand this season but Dildar’s debut was worth the wait when winning the Bravo Company 40 Commando Royal Marines Novices’ Hurdle in ready fashion. He is certainly going for the race and looks Nicholls’ first string.