Cheltenham Festival 2011 

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Henderson Primed for Triumph Hurdle Hat-Trick

The Grade One Triumph Hurdle is the leading race in the National Hunt calendar for four year old horses in the country. It is raced at the Cheltenham Festival each year, where it the first race of the fourth and final day. It is run over two miles and one furlong on the New Course at Cheltenham with eight hurdles.

Nicky Henderson

Nicky Henderson

The race has produced several outstanding winners over the years including Persian War who won the race in 1967 then went on to win the Champion Hurdle the following three years. Kribensis won the Triumph in 1988 and the Champion Hurdle two years later, while Katchit, trained by Alan King won in 2007 then won the Champion Hurdle in 2008. Commanche Court is also worthy of a mention, he won the Triumph in 1997 and won the Irish Grand National three years later in 1990.

This year the race looks like it will be more competitive than usual with 77 runners still entered. Trainer, Nicky Henderson has ten of these entries currently including the 6/1 antepost favourite Grandouet as well as A Media Luz, who won impressively at Huntingdon on Thursday (10th February) and Titan Di Sarti. Henderson has saddled the winner of the race for last two seasons which has encouraged Bookmaker, Stan James to offer 5/1 about a Henderson horse winning again this year. On the surface this looks like a good offer as Grandouet looks a very worthy favourite based on his last two runs.

Grandouet won the Happy Birthday Laura Juvenile Hurdle at Newbury at the back end of December by 4½ lengths from stablemate A Media Luz which he followed up with a breathtaking performance when winning the Ascot Annual Badgeholders Juvenile Hurdle at Ascot last month by 6 lengths which saw him a solid favourite for the race. However, stablemate, A Media Luz, who was second to Grandouet in December before falling at Kempton last month won hard held by 18 lengths on his final preparation ahead of the festival and was subsequently cut from 16/1 to 10/1 for the race.

Sam Winner
© Grossick Racing Photography

Sam Winner
The biggest market rival to Henderson pair is the Paul Nicholls trained Sam Winner, who defeated the favourite by a massive 15 lengths in the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham back in November. He was receiving 8lb from Grandouet that day, but received no help from the handicapper in his next outing in the second Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham in December, which he won by 6 lengths from the Brendan Powell trained, Pullyourfingerout. Sam Winner however ‘fluffed his lines’ next time out when only 4th when odds on favourite in the Grade One, Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow last month, behind the Brian Ellison trained Marsh Warbler.

Ellison who is usually more associated with flat racing has high hopes for Marsh Warbler who was completing a hat trick of wins when winning that race. He has improved each time and was once upon a time thought to be good enough for Pattern racing on the flat. At 14/1 to win the Triumph he looks a very good bet indeed.

Smad Place, trained by Alan King finished third behind Marsh Warbler in the Future Champion Hurdle, but his trainer believed that he never ran a true race that day and was a much better juvenile than the evidence suggested. That would explain why he is a shorter price than Marsh Warbler to win the Triumph Hurdle with odds of 12/1. A word of warning however on this horse, he has not been performing too well at home lately which persuaded King to withdraw him from a race at Cheltenham at the end of January. He may well now go straight to Cheltenham.

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