The JCB Triumph Hurdle is the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival’s fourth and final day, and is open to four year old novice hurdlers of either gender. The race is run over a distance of 2m 1f and has been won in the past by the likes of Celestial Halo and Katchit. For the 2012 renewal, we’ve got an interesting 50/1 (51.00) outsider lined up…
Since the introduction of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap to the Cheltenham Festival back in 2005, the profile of the average Triumph Hurdle winner has changed a little. The race seems to be much less of a lottery in terms of betting, due to the reduction in participants (all seven winners since 2005 came from the first four horses in the betting and the last six came from the front three) and more and more inexperienced hurdlers are winning the race (last year’s winner Zarkandar was the first horse in the race’s history to win after just a single start over hurdles).
Some Triumph Hurdle trends remain intact though, and we can use these to thin the 66 runner field a little. The two most notable trends concern last time out winners (16 from the last 18, or 15 if you choose not to count Scolardy who, back in 2002, crossed the line first in his Cheltenham prep race only to be disqualified, before going on to land the Triumph Hurdle) and form on the flat (just one horse since 1996 had a flat rating of less than 80, while the last thirteen winners to have run on the flat had all tried 1m 4f at least once in their career).
Sticking with distance trends, all of the last twelve JCB Triumph Hurdle winners had scored at least once over 2m or 2m 1f, but none of those same twelve horses had ever won over 2m 2f or further. This, along with the flat form trend, suggests that we should be looking for a genuine speedster, rather than a staying type.
Another trend to note when looking for the 2012 Triumph Hurdle winner, is the date of the horse’s Cheltenham Festival prep race. All of the last thirteen winners last ran between 19 and 55 days prior to the running of the Triumph Hurdle, suggesting that we should discount those horses with too recent a run as not likely to be fresh enough, while any longer than 55 days and the horse is likely to be too rusty. You could take this trend even further and look only at those horses who last ran in February, as only two of the last twenty winners didn’t have their final Cheltenham prep race in February.
Other trends to consider when looking for the 2012 Triumph Hurdle winner are Class 3 winners (all of the last ten Triumph Hurdle winners had already scored in a race of at least Class 3), lightly raced hurdlers (none of the last ten winners had run in more than six hurdles races) and horses beaten in Graded races (half of the last ten Triumph Hurdle winners had won a Graded hurdle, while the other five had never lined up in a Graded hurdle).
As a trial race, Kempton Park’s Adonis Hurdle is easily the best indicator of potential Triumph Hurdle success, as five of the last twelve winners had also landed the Adonis. This year, the Adonis Hurdle was won by Baby Mix, who is understandably contesting favouritism for the 2011 Triumph Hurdle, at a best price of 7.50 (SportingBet).
When applying our trends to the 2012 Triumph Hurdle field, we can reduce it to just four remaining horses: Baby Mix, Grumeti, Pearl Swan and West Brit.
The first three named horses can all be found at the front of the betting, which certainly bodes well given the starting prices of all Triumph Hurdle winners since the creation of the Fred Winter Handicap, but I won’t be ruling out Charlie Longsdon’s West Brit (best price 51.00, Bet365, BoyleSports & BetVictor) that easily.
Although seemingly nothing special on the flat, West Brit did finish his career on the level with an official mark of 82 and a record of one win (10f) and two other places from five attempts. The bay gelding is also by Derby winning sire High Chaparral.
A winner of the Scottish Triumph Hurdle when coming back from a breathing operation last month (a 674 mile round trip for the trainer, I might add) the horse also holds an entry for the Fred Winter, but would need to run again to qualify for a handicap mark so it seems highly likely that it will line up in the Triumph instead. The horse could still have plenty more to offer and should appreciate the better ground at the Cheltenham Festival, making it a really good value Each-Way bet at 51.00.
Of the remaining three, it’s really tough to call. Grumeti (best price 7.50, SportingBet) has form in the book having beaten Baby Mix and Pearl Swan in the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham, but then Pearl Swan (best price 9.00, BoyleSports) did cross the line first and was later disqualified. To further complicate matters, Baby Mix bounced back from that race to win the Adonis; a race that, as discussed earlier, has provided plenty of Triumph Hurdle winners.
In such a tricky race to sort out, I would far rather be on the side of a good value outsider with potential for improvement, than attempting to unravel which of those market leaders will finish in which order. Give me West Brit for the Triumph Hurdle all day long; I’ll be happy with the place money but hopefully, come 13:40 on Friday March 16th I’ll be saying “I told you so”!
The JCB Triumph Hurdle
Friday 16th March 2012, 13:30