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Bleu Adds Another String to Nicholls’ Triumph Hurdle Bow

Paul Nicholls didn’t enjoy the happiest of weeks last week but the victory on Wednesday of his French import Cedre Bleu will surely have brought a smile back to the face of the champion trainer, writes Elliot Slater.

Running in the joint ownership of two of National Hunt racing’s most influential owners, Paul Barber and David Johnson, Cedre Bleu had raced three times in his native France, never winning, but running well to be third in a Listed hurdle at Auteuil in September. A big, imposing animal, he was sent off 10/3 second favourite for the four-runner Berkshire Stand Bookshop Juvenile Hurdle, with all the irish racing tips market action focusing around the Nicky Henderson-trained 1/2 favourite Titan de Sarti.

Although Titan de Sarti probably ran his race under Barry Geraghty, it was clear from a long way out that Sam Thomas was going considerably better on Nicholls’ charge who after easing to the front at the third last stayed-on powerfully to eventually score cosily by 10 lengths. Despite Nicholls commenting immediately after the race that Cedre Bleu isn’t obviously the right type for the Cheltenham Festival (he already has joint-favourite Sam Winner in the race), bookmakers reacted by introducing the Newbury winner into the ante-post market for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at odds of around 20/1. There’s no doubt that Bet365 were impressed with what they saw as they were only prepared to offer a miserly 12/1 with racing tips for today.

Nicholls’ concerns about running the Le Fou gelding in the four-year-old’s championship are primarily based around the massive frame of Cedre Bleu. He dwarfed his rivals at Newbury and is almost certainly a horse who was born to go chasing. Whether he will be fully effective on the undulating Prestbury circuit is open to doubt, but wherever he goes he appears to have a tremendous future ahead of him.

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