Fancy a bit of Devilment for the Triumph?
We’ve had the second declaration stage for the JCB Triumph Hurdle and all that remains are final declarations. The Triumph is a race for four-year-olds – young hurdlers – and run on the stamina sapping New Course at Cheltenham.
Over two miles and a furlong in a race that is sure to be run at a sound gallop a stout ability to stay is of huge importance. Raw ability is also significant and it has paid to stick to the obvious in this race historically as horses fancied in the market tend to run well.
In this year’s running, Nicky Henderson has a strong team headed by the exciting Peace And Co. It’s the perfect opener to a fascinating Gold Cup day at the 2015 Festival.
JCB Triumph Hurdle Preview
A beautiful son of Falco, Peace And Co burst on to the British National Hunt scene when bolting up at Doncaster in the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle. Despite it being his maiden start since joining Nicky Henderson from France, he was sent off a 10/11 shot.
The market was spot on as this strapping gelding bounded effortlessly clear to score by 19 lengths, posting a good speed figure in the process. The performance was even more extraordinary given how keen he was throughout, but it didn’t stop the four-year-old from scoring or jumping well.
On softer ground off a sedate early gallop Peace And Co wouldn’t take the eye as much next time out at Cheltenham in the Grade 2 Finesse Juvenile Hurdle. This was a better race and accompanied with adverse race day conditions, it didn’t show the impeccably-bred gelding at his best.
Simon Munir & Isaac Souede’s horse failed to excite many, but, for us, it was still a classy performance. It’s never easy winning slow run races on soft ground when you are held-up and the fact he put daylight between himself and the tough, useful Karezak – who he gave three pounds to – shows the form to be more than useful.
His pedigree, connections and form see Peace And Co a deserved favourite, but we feel he lacks in value at this point in time especially as he looks a flashy type. He may be a bet on the day should his price expand.
As well as housing the favourite Nicky Henderson looks set to run the horse sat second in the market Hargam. Owned by JP McManus with a classy flat pedigree this four-year-old has got better and better as the season progressed.
While beaten on his debut at Cheltenham Hargam showed plenty of ability. On ground far too soft to show his best the son of Sinndar travelled and jumped well before being outstayed by a race fit opponent. The run can be marked up given he travelled down the inner for the entire race on the worst ground before showing a nice attitude to get involved late in the race.
Since this loss, however, Hargam has gone unbeaten in two starts. The nicely put-together gelding beat Karezak – the same horse Peace And Co took the scalp of – at Cheltenham next time out. Under A P McCoy the pair hit the line hard collaring Karezak – who was giving Hargam three pounds – by just over a length pulling 29 lengths clear of the third.
It was a good victory especially considering the tacky ground wouldn’t have played to his strengths. The grey would get his favoured fast ground next time out, though, when winning at Musselburgh. At 4/11 the Seven Barrows-inmate was entitled to win, but he jumped fantastically well off a strong gallop and won with any amount in hand clocking a useful speed figure.
In a competitive race Hargam is probably just on the short side at 5/1 in the current ante-post book, but he’s a horse that does an awful right and is thoroughly likeable.
While further down the betting market we may as well continue our Nicky Henderson theme, as the former Champion Trainer also looks set to run the progressive Top Notch. Owners Simon Munir & Isaac Souede appear to have invested heavily in horses this season and despite also owning the race favourite Peace And Co, will run this ready-made hurdler.
Like his stablemate, Hargam, this son of Poliglote has also had a trio of runs in Great Britain, but, unlike Hargam he remains unbeaten. In fact this former French-racer is undefeated in five career starts having won two hurdle races in his native France before joining Nicky Henderson.
He kicked off his season in great style at Newbury running out a gritty four-and-a-half length winner from a 131-rated animal. Having travelled and jumped nicely the gelding hit the line strong. The runner-up was no match for him despite receiving ten pounds. The bare form looks more than useful.
As does the form of his second British effort at Ascot. Another determined win was gained from the likable Golden Doyen (who was beaten by Hargam earlier in the season). Under Barry Geraghty Top Notch travelled nicely and tracked the runner-up into the straight, easily. Once asked to go about his business and put the race to bed he did so and had over two lengths to spare at the line.
In his Cheltenham preparation run the four-year-old would have an easy task at Haydock winning at 2/13. It was done in a professional manner and now tees him up nicely for a crack at the Triumph. Top Notch is the less heralded of the Henderson trio, but he’s just as likeable and certainly the value of the three.
Gigginstown House Stud took the 2015 Triumph Hurdle with Tiger Roll and in Petite Parisienne they have another live contender for back-to-back wins. Willie Mullins’s classy looking filly was hugely impressive in turning over her stable-mate Kalkir in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Despite never having won a race over hurdles the daughter of Montmartre went on to score in gritty fashion at the top-level. While she was tough in victory the grey showed a distinct touch of class to track down Kalkir before staying on strongly to record a length-and-three-quarters victory.
Bryan Cooper always looked confident in getting the job done and he had a willing partner. The prospect of better ground at Cheltenham may also improve this good-moving four-year-old. In fact, her overall profile suggests improvement is highly likely given the Spring Juvenile Hurdle victory was just her second start over timber.
The fact connections paid €135,000 at the July Arqana Sales may also point to the possibility that more is to come. Petite Parisienne does an awful lot right; she has class, she travels, she jumps and she stays. She’s the perfect model for a Triumph Hurdle. Her seven pounds fillies’ allowance may prove telling.
Of those at bigger prices, if there is to be a fly in ointment, we feel Devilment may be the one horse to cause a shock. Rated 94 on the flat before joining the John Ferguson operation the son of Cape Cross has progressed with each start this campaign.
There is a lot to like about this four-year-old. He looks a compact, no nonsense readymade hurdler with a nice mixture of speed and stamina. Since his hurdling debut defeat at the hands of Pain Au Chocalat Devilment has gone on to score in facile style in two runs at Wetherby and Doncaster.
In both races the gelding has been far too keen, but such is his natural ability he has gone on to coast home. At Wetherby it was good to see his hurdling technique improve significantly as he and A P McCoy cruised away from their rivals.
It was a similar story next time out at Doncaster, the ease of success here was again impressive. Having never come out of second gear the son of Cape Cross toyed with his field a long way from home and despite winning with such ease, still managed to clock a useful speed figure.
There is certainly a case to say his raw form needs improving compared to the market leaders and it’s been style over substance, but Devilment was more than useful on the flat and falls under the good old banner of ‘could be anything’. While that’s the case for plenty in this field they aren’t as big a price.
Best of the Rest
The 2015 Triumph Hurdle looks hugely competitive. With that being the case many good horses only feature in this section. Plenty will be miffed at the presence of Beltor in this segment, but his form doesn’t look as good as plenty in and around him in the market.
There is an awful lot of natural ability there, but will he get away with being as keen as he was in his Adonis Hurdle win in this race? We think not. Faster ground is also a worry.
The Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci pair of Dicosimo and Kalkir look nice horses and of the pair we would fancy the more experienced Kalkir. A strong run race where he can get a lead for much longer will suit him, but it looks a tall order in turning the Spring Juvenile form with Petite Parisienne. Dicosimo looks a raw chaser in the making and coming here on the back of one Irish run means we’ll swerve him.
Pain Au Chocolat is another horse that has impressed us, but we can see the progressive Devilment turning their Plumpton run around given the prospect of better ground. He’s a horse for the future, too.
The likes of Karezak and Old Guard have mixed it with some of the best this season – especially the former – and we can’t see them turning the form at Cheltenham.
The BetBright Verdict
This year’s running of the Triumph Hurdle looks a top-class race. It’s always hard to be sure on these things, but plenty big race winners will come from it.
The classy looking Peace And Co is the most likely winner as the market suggests, but 5/2 about his chance is too skinny at this time. There is a strong possibility he’ll drift on the day and should he hit 4/1 or bigger we would be interested.
Beltor is another horse we are looking to get after in terms of value. He hasn’t achieved enough in the formbook to warrant his price despite having a huge amount of natural ability. Should he put it altogether and race properly he can go close, but it’s a big ‘if on what we saw last time out.
Dicosimo, Kalkir, Karezak and Old Guard need to up their games. The Irish duo look good, but there is a suspicion the British form is stronger this season and a British point on the card in the BetBright Cup looks likely.
One of the strongest British contenders is Hargam. There is an awful lot to like about J P McManus’s horse, expect the price. Physically he’s just the type of horse we’d look for in this race. He hurdles well, travels strongly and has a great attitude. We couldn’t put you off him if you fancy his chance, but others look better value at this stage.
There are three horses that interest us that potentially offer a bit of value; Devilment, Petite Parisienne and Top Notch. Petite Parisienne and Top Notch have really strong claims in this race, but the fact DEVILMENT is nearly twice the price he is the way we will side with at this juncture.
The son of Cape Cross was a highly-rated flat horse, but still remains an unknown over hurdles. John Ferguson’s inmate does an awful lot right and now his jumping has improved he may be able to show his true worth.
A strong run race will bring out the best in him and judging from his last pair of keen-running wins it’s badly needed. Genuine good ground will also aid his cause so in a tough race he looks the value play at the moment.
1pt each-way DEVILMENT @ 16/1
The 2015 JCB Triumph Hurdle is the opener on Gold Cup Day, going off at 1.30pm on Friday, March 13th.