Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Cheltenham 2010: JCB Triumph Hurdle

The JCB Triumph Hurdle is the opening race on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival and is run over two miles and a furlong. It is exclusively for four year old novices and there are eight hurdles to be negotiated. Last year’s winner was Zaynar, under Barry Geraghty (right).

The first trend of note is last time out form. Of the last sixteen Triumph Hurdle winners, fourteen had won their previous start and the two that failed, Celestial Halo and Paddy’s Return, both finished second. Eliminating those whose last time out result is worse than second place allows us to significantly reduce the field.

Next comes experience. Of the last twenty Triumph Hurdle winners, just three had run fewer than three times over hurdles and 15 of the last 16 had won at least two races.

One of the leading fancies for the race, Mille Chief (pictured left), will not take his chance. Trainer Alan King ruled out Cheltenham after revealing a training setback, stating that “90% [fit] is not good enough”. This leaves me with thirteen to pick from.

These days it’s very difficult to win the Triumph Hurdle without a decent recruit from the flat or a French bred horse, which tend to be schooled in jumping much earlier. Just one of the last twelve winners had a flat rating of lower than 80 (Spectroscope, whose OR was 73) and nine of the last ten winners were by a Group 1 winning flat sire. We can use all of this information to thin the field to just six: Alaivan, Anak, Barizan, Bothy, Notus de la Tour and Son Amix.

It is worth nothing that all of the last ten Triumph winners had been off the track no longer than 45 days, by the time the race came around. Going with that, we can further eliminate Barizan (not seen since November) and Notus de la Tour (last seen at Plumpton in January).

All of the last ten winners had won at Class 3 or better, a feat yet to be achieved by Son Amix or Barizan, leaving me with just Bothy and the market leader, Alaivan. It seems likely that Bothy will be running in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle instead, which probably explains the 50/1 best price for the Triumph Hurdle, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for any news with regard to this. In the meantime, it looks like I’ll be backing Alaivan (right).

I’m not really a big fan of supporting favourites at Cheltenham, but eleven of the last sixteen Triumph Hurdle winners were in the front four in the market, which is a boost. Due to the big fields that are so common with the Triumph, it’s not really worth lumping on. The minimum bet at a best price of 9/2 (Paddy Power, Betfred) seems about right.

JCB Triumph Hurdle
Friday 19th March, 13.30
Alaivan – 1 point win

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