JCB Triumph Hurdle Preview
The top young guns around get a chance to shine on Gold Cup day in The Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle for juveniles. National Hunt legends such as Tiger Roll have won the Triumph and this year’s renewal looks a high class one. Zanahiyr has long been all the rage for this race and he has looked a cut above in his three starts to date. Quilixious looks another machine for owners Cheveley Park Stud and looks a horse to keep onside for the future. Tritonic heads the English charge after a seriously impressive win in the Grade 2 Adonis, and Adagio brings Grade 1 winning form to the table for trainer David Pipe.
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Current Odds: 2/1
Owners Noel and Valerie Moran have invested heavily in recent times and they look to have secured themselves an extremely bright young prospect. Zanahiyr impressed on hurdles debut with a good win over Dark Voyager but he really caught the eye when destroying the well regarded Saint Sam by 14 lengths on his next start. His time compared extremely well to other races on the card including the Grade 1 Royal Bond won by Ballyadam. He was 10 seconds faster, carrying just over a stone less, but for a juvenile this represented an extremely good time figure. Sent off a warm favourite for the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle over Christmas, Zanahiyr travelled and jumped through the race like a seasoned pro, eventually winning by just under 4 lengths. Winning this contest demonstrated his ability to quicken off a slow pace having already won off a strong pace. His slick jumping and professional attitude will stand him in good stead here and in my opinion, he represents a solid favourite.
Trainer: Alan King
Current Odds: 2/1
Every year we seem to have a late springer in The Triumph market and this year that is Tritonic. Rated 99 on the flat, Tritonic has some extremely good-looking flat form to his name including a one- and three-quarter length defeat to subsequent Group 1 winner Subjectivist. He made his hurdling debut for Alan King at Ascot late in January. His jumping was a tad hit and miss but he demonstrated a willing attitude to grind down long-time leader Casa Loupi and win by a length. The pair met again in the Grade 2 Adonis at Kempton where Tritonic was still average in the jumping department, but he finished the race off in emphatic fashion powering away for a 10-length success. Having seemingly taken a big step forward for his first run, further improvement for Cheltenham is possible but I would have a few question marks. For all he was visually awesome, his closing sectionals were similar to 2 mile 5 furling handicap winner Hometown Boy earlier on the card. I would also worry about the quick turnaround and his patchy jumping. This year’s Triumph looks a strong one and if he is to contend, he can’t afford to jump poorly.
Trainer: Henry De Bromhead
Current Odds: 9/2
Now trained by Henry De Bromhead, Quilixios looks a horse to get excited about. Physically a big, raw, staying chaser, he has travelled through his races like a very talented individual. He has been nimble at his obstacles and looks sure to have a big future over fences one day. First seen in October at Down Royal, Quilixios cantered around to win two modest contests by wide margins, and we had to wait until The Dublin Racing Festival to see him again. He travelled through the race like a really good horse and cruised past Saint Sam coming into the straight. He may have idled a bit up the run in but still ran out a comfortable winner. His time compared well to Appreciate It over the same course and distance later on the card and there’s no doubt he’s a very talented horse. I would just wonder whether he is ready to win a triumph. He still physically looks a big raw sort to me and it may well be he finds one or two of these more professional than him at this stage in his career.
Trainer: David Pipe
Current Odds: 10/1
Adagio has been an exceptional horse for connections so far this season and has improved with every start. A debut hurdles success at Warwick came in early November and he reappeared at Cheltenham just 8 days later to record a fine second to Duffle Coat. Returning to Cheltenham a month later, he got the job done in good fashion and was duly pitched into Grade 1 company for the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle. He jumped, travelled and quicken away from the 141 rated Nassalam in the style of a very useful horse. Nassalam has since come out and been comfortably beaten by Monmiral so I’d maybe question the strength of the form but Monmiral may just be a bit special. Having had four races over hurdles, Adagio’s experience will help him here and we know he goes well around Cheltenham. I anticipate the style of a Triumph to suit, and I’d expect to see him attract each way support at odds of 10/1 or bigger.
Saint Sam currently heads the betting for The Boodles, but he would be an interesting outsider should he rock up here. Comfortably beaten by both Zanahiyr and Quilixios he needs to improve but recent runs have suggested he is a horse getting better with each and every run. Busselton is another towards the top of The Boodles market and has ran encouraging races in defeat the last twice. He has plenty of improvement to find to get involved though. Youmdor is another Willie Mullins inmate who could come here having impressed on hurdles debut. He ran a shocker last time out but sandwiched in between those efforts was a fall at the last where he appeared to have Teahupoo beat who has come out and franked the form. He could be interesting at 33/1. Willie Mullins may also choose to throw a wildcard in here. French import Haut En Couleurs has a lofty reputation and has attracted support in recent times. He is a bit of an unknown quantity, but should he line up and receive heavy support on the day, he may be hard to ignore.
Crunching the Numbers
- 24 of the last 25 winners had racecourse experience prior to starting their English/Irish hurdles campaign
- 23 of the previous 25 winners had won a race that season (Tiger Roll 2014 and Farclas 2018 the exceptions)
- 18 of the last 25 winners won last time out
- 18 of the last 25 winners had previously won a hurdles race by 5 lengths or more
- The last 12 winners had run in the last 55 days
In a race where plenty of runners come into this with extremely similar profiles, it is unsurprising to see the main contenders all score well. Both Tritonic and Quilixios complete the full house whilst Zanahiyr and Adagio both scored 4, having both run more than 55 days ago.
This year’s Triumph looks a really strong renewal, and you can make a solid case for a handful at the top of the market. History tells us the Triumph often throws up a shock, but I would be very surprised if that were the case this year. The Irish challenge looks a strong one and in my opinion Zanahiyr should be clear favourite. He’s smashed the clock this season and proven his versatility off both a strong and slow pace. Quilixious looks sure to run a big race and I anticipate Cheltenham to suit him as a track. With such a high-class flat background, Tritonic will love the galloping finish with just 2 hurdles in the final 7 furlongs. His jumping does worry me in the early parts of the race though and he wouldn’t want to get too far behind. I can’t shake the thought of Solo winning the Adonis in similarly impressive fashion last year but he subsequently went on to disappoint at Cheltenham. The quick turnaround and jumping worries are enough to put me off at the price and I’d much rather side with Zanahiyr who appears to have a solid profile. The Triumph is typically run at a good pace which will suit Zanahiyr down to the ground. He can travel, jump and quicken away from his rivals for an impressive success. Course and distance scorer Adagio looks likely to run his race and represents a solid each way bet. The course is unknown for plenty of these, but we know he loves the Cheltenham Hill!
My Idea of the Winner
- Zanahiyr 5/2
Each Way Play
- Adagio 10/1
By Sam Rideout
Follow me on Twitter – @TheTr17pleP