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JCB Triumph Hurdle – Analysis

This year’s Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle (1.30pm) on Friday, March 18, has attracted 77 entries, including 23 trained in Ireland and one potential French raider.

Sam Winner
© Grossick Racing Photography

Sam Winner

Grandouet is the ante-post favourite with bookmakers to give trainer Nicky Henderson a third consecutive victory in the two-mile, one-furlong contest and sixth in total, following on from First Bout (1985), Alone Success (1987), Katarino (1999), Zaynar (2009) and Soldatino (2010). The gelding has won his latest two starts easily at Ascot and Newbury, having failed to live up to his lofty reputation on his first two outings.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Sam Winner handed Grandouet a 15-length defeat when in receipt of 8lb in the Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham’s The Open in November and then defeated the Brendan Powell-trained Pullyourfingerout over the course and distance in December.

Sam Winner was only fourth on his latest outing behind the victorious Brian Ellison-trained Marsh Warbler in the Grade One Coral Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow in January, a race in which the Venetia Williams-trained Houblon Des Obeaux was second and the Alan King-trained Smad Place third.

Local Hero emerged as a serious contender when winning the Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial over the course and distance on Festival Trials Day last month. Steve Gollings’ charge held the Colin Tizzard-trained Third Intention, with the Nicholls-trained Indian Daudaie back in third.

Among the Irish entries is the Edward O’Grady-trained Sailors Warn who took the Grade Two Bord Na Mona Fire Magic Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle easily from the Ado McGuinness-trained Fearless Falcon, with the Charles O’Brien-trained Accidental Outlaw third and Grade Three winner Toner D’Oudairies fourth. The last-named is trained by Gordon Elliott, whose Plan A was third to Sam Winner at The Open and won a Gowran Park maiden hurdle on the bridle last month.

Dermot Weld has engaged easy Punchestown maiden hurdle winner Unaccompanied, while the Pat Flynn-trained Louisville Lip defeated the Noel Meade-trained Maxim Gorky on his hurdles debut at Thurles recently, and the Mouse Morris-trained Tillahow held Fearless Falcon and third-placed Chaperoned, trained by Jessica Harrington, to land a Grade Three at Punchestown on January 8.

Henderson’s 10-strong entry also includes promising French imports Celtus and Molotof, as well as useful Flat runner Moose Moran, who is yet to debut over hurdles.

The David Pipe-trained Kazzene made a good impression on his first start over hurdles since arriving from France when seeing off the Alison Thorpe-trained Kuilsriver and the Nicholls-trained Brampour. Nicholls took the prize in 2008 with Celestial Halo and has also entered Doncaster winner Empire Levant, Pau hurdle winner Tonic Mellysse and Zarkava’s half-brother Zarkandar who is yet to make his bow over hurdles.

The Tim Vaughan-trained First Fandango is unbeaten in two hurdles starts, the Philip Hobbs-trained Tony Star held the Charlie Longsdon-trained Paintball on his hurdles debut, while the Pipe-trained Trop Fort is two from two in French bumpers.

The last French-trained winner was the Francois Doumen-trained Snow Drop in  2000 and the French entry this year is the Guillaume Macaire-trained Tout Rouge, who defeated Sam Winner by a length and a half in an Auteuil maiden hurdle in April and was most recently third in the Grade Two Prix Congress over fences at Auteuil on November 6. 




1. The JCB Triumph Hurdle was formerly run at Hurst Park and transferred to Cheltenham in 1965 on the closure of the London course.

2. JCB, which supports the contest for the 10th time this year, is only the race’s third sponsor. The Elite Racing Club was due to back the race for a fifth time in 2001 when The Festival was cancelled, while the Daily Express sponsored from 1965 to 1996. The race was originally run at the April Meeting but was transferred to The Festival in 1968.

3. The JCB Triumph Hurdle has been one of the most competitive races at The Festival. The 2008 field of 14 was by far the smallest since Connaught Ranger beat 13 rivals in 1978 - the recent introduction of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle has meant that the JCB Triumph Hurdle now attracts only the very best four-year-olds. The race regularly reached the safety factor, reduced from 28 to 24 in 2004. In fact, the 14 runners in Connaught Ranger's year probably had more to do with the transfer of the race to April following the abandonment of racing on Gold Cup day than any loss of its competitive nature. The smallest field was for its first running at Cheltenham in 1965, when seven runners took part. The largest field was 31 in 1970.

4. Since the race has been at Cheltenham, there has only once been an odds-on winner of the Triumph Hurdle. This was Attivo, owned by former BBC TV commentator Sir Peter O'Sullevan, in 1973 at 4/5. The longest-priced winners were Baron Blakeney, Shiny Copper and Ikdam at 66/1 in 1981, 1982 and 1989.

5. Three horses have gone on from winning the JCB Triumph Hurdle to victory in the Stan James Champion Hurdle. Persian War won the Triumph in 1967, and reeled off three Champion Hurdles from 1968-70, Kribensis won the Triumph in 1988 and the Champion Hurdle in 1990, while in 2008 Katchit added a Champion Hurdle victory to his success in the 2007 JCB Triumph Hurdle.

6. The JCB Triumph Hurdle has a good record for home-trained winners. French-trained raiders won it on four consecutive occasions at Hurst Park from 1950-53, again in 1955 and with Snow Drop in 2000. There have only been six Irish successes (1977, 1984, 1990, 1993, 1997 and 2002). Nicky Henderson is the winning-most trainer, having triumphed with First Bout (1985), Alone Success (1987), Katarino (1999), Zaynar (2009) and Soldatino (2010).

7. Among jockeys, Jimmy Uttley and Barry Geraghty are the most successful with three wins each. Perhaps the most interesting name on the roll of honour is that of Lester Piggott, who won the race on King Charlemagne when run at Hurst Park in 1954.

8. The fastest time for the winning horse is 3m 51.20s, recorded in 2006 by Detroit City. The previous best was 3m 52.90s, set by Snow Drop in 2000.

9. It has a justifiable reputation for being one of the more unpredictable contests at The Festival - there have been three 66/1 winners and only eight successful favourites since 1965.

10. Three fillies have been successful; Snow Drop in 2000, Mysilv in 1994 and Shawiya in 1993.

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