Andy Holding has a look ahead to the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and has selected two tips.
2022 Triumph Hurdle
It takes a certain type of trainer to win a Triumph Hurdle and history shows the same names keep popping up on a regular basis. Henderson, Hobbs, King, Elliott, Nicholls and Mullins have all captured the prize at least twice this decade, so when drawing up a shortlist for a likely winner of the four-year-old championship, runners representing that sextet isn’t a bad starting place.
Dealing with the first two names from that list, they haven’t even a runner entered in this year’s renewal, while Alan King only has two – of which, Forever William is a 50-1 poke at time of writing. Having won it with Tiger Roll, Fraclas, along with playing a big part with Quilixios last year, Gordon Elliott clearly knows a thing or two about preparing one for the opener on day four and he looks to have a strong hand this time around with long-term ante-post favourite Fil D’Or, backed up nicely with the potential of Pied Piper.
The former has quickly established himself as the best Irish juvenile courtesy of three straight wins – two at Graded level - and while it has to be said the quality of opposition he’s faced hasn’t been of a vintage standard, he could only beat what’s been put in front of him. Obviously, that could all change come the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival – one the most preeminent trials in recent times – but as it stands, he rates poor value around the 5-2 mark strictly on what he’s achieved so far on the clock. The latter has only had the one run so far to date, so definitely slots into the ‘could be anything’ file, and of what we saw of him in defeating the well-touted Vauban at Punchestown, he looks to have a fine attitude to match his ability. We will know more about him after he tackles the big juvenile race on trials days at Cheltenham.
Even though Willie Mullins has won it twice, the Closutton genius would probably freely admit it’s not a race he goes out of his way to target specifically and that’s reflected in the big gap between 2002 when he won it with Scolardy to 2020 when his Burning Victory was rather fortunately handed the trophy on account of Goshen falling at the last. Either way, he looks to have a nice prospect on his hands in the shape of the once-raced Vauban, who could probably consider himself unlucky not to score at the first time of asking at Punchestown. Due to go to the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown next, the son of Galiway has the scope to shorten up significantly in the ante-post lists if coming through that assignment with flying colours. Icare Allen could join his stable mate in the same Grade 1 at the Dublin venue, and while his recent victory over the same C&D wasn’t anything special on the numbers, the way he strode out after the last suggests he has more to offer.
Last but not least from that list, Paul Nicholls is obviously better known for his exploits with chasers over the years, but he also knows the time of day with those embarking on their careers and his eye for juvenile talent has been borne out with the likes of Celestial Halo and Zarkander in this race, and All Yours and Momiral in the Aintree equivalent. With the exception of the first named, it’s noticeable the remainder started their careers in France and so did ICEO (best price 14-1), his only live contender in this category this season.
Winner of a conditions hurdle in Dieppe back in August, the son of Coastal Path made his debut for new connections at Kempton’s Christmas meeting and, after being well backed beforehand, he justified the support in his direction with a performance of some note. Once settling off the strong gallop set by the Illico Des Places, he picked up the baton when the front-runner ran out of gas turning for home and, even though there was a slight worry that his exploits of sitting so close to the early pace might take effect late on, he dispelled that theory by powering clear in the final half a mile. Clocking a big speed figure, he achieved that UK debut success with plenty to spare and, while it would be tempting to go back to the Sunbury track for relatively easy pickings in the Adonis next month, the fact connections are willing to sacrifice that project and come to Cheltenham for trials day, has to be a seen as a big signal of intent. Up against Irish raider, Pied Piper, his credentials will be further enhanced if he were to take his notable scalp over the same C&D as the Triumph.
Of those at much bigger odds, BEN SIEGEL (best price 33-1) comes into the discussion on several fronts and he looks worth a small interest at this stage.
Useful on the Flat, Noel Meade’s inmate made a lovely start to his new vocation when winning with a bit to spare at Punchestown back in November and, although he hasn’t been seen out since, that stance is seen as a positive with regards to the Triumph Hurdle. Owned by the same set of connections as last season’s Boodles hero Jeff Kidder, the son of Tamayuz has missed a decent chunk of the campaign with a view to going straight to the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, a move which would suggest they hold him in high regard and are happy to forsake a handicap project.
Based on the time figure he achieved and attitude he showed at the Co Meath venue, he certainly won’t be out of place at Grade 1 level. Providing he can hold his own at the Dublin Racing Festival, the dream will still remain alive and, at top price of 33-1, he has to be worth a roll of the dice.