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2019 Triumph Hurdle tips – Favourite hard to oppose in Gold Cup day opener

Jonathan Vine in Tips 5 Mar 2019

Our expert takes a look through the betting for the opening Grade One on day four of the Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his tips.

Gold Cup day at the Cheltenham Festival starts with a bang, as the finest juveniles in the land lock horns in the Triumph Hurdle. Three-time Champion Hurdle winner, Persian War opened his account at the Festival by winning the Triumph in 1967 and he’s since been followed into the winners’ enclosure by Katchit, Zarkandar and last year’s Grand National hero, Tiger Roll.

The Triumph Hurdle was the scene of Joseph O’Brien’s first Grade One win as a trainer, with Ivanovic Gorbatov sealing victory ahead of Apple’s Jade in 2016. O’Brien has dominated the juvenile races so far this season and his leading candidate in this year’s Triumph is undoubtedly Sir Erec (6/5 Betfair).

Formerly trained on the flat by Joseph’s father, Aidan O’Brien, Sir Erec moved to National Hunt racing at the start of the season. The four-year-old looked a little green on his first start, idling in the closing stages when winning by just a neck. Sir Erec then registered a much-improved display at the Dublin Racing Festival, cruising to an effortless victory in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle to cement his position at the head of the Triumph Hurdle market.

Stablemate, Fakir D’Oudairies (12/1 Unibet) had sat atop the Triumph betting until then, after proving his Cheltenham credentials with a sparkling performance on Trials Day. Instead of allowing his top two juveniles to clash, it seems O’Brien and JP McManus have decided to split the two. Fakir D’Oudaries is almost certain to take his chance in the Supreme, leaving the door wide open for Sir Erec to hand his trainer a second victory in this historic Grade One.

Band Of Outlaws (16/1 William Hill) could also represent Joseph O’Brien in the Triumph. Despite upsetting stablemate Konitho in some style at Naas last month, he doesn’t have the ability of his aforementioned stablemates and the Fred Winter looks his most appropriate race. Garden’s Of Babylon (16/1 Unibet), on the other hand, will likely be rated too highly to take his chance in the Fred Winter and, based on his second behind Sir Erec at Leopardstown, he could challenge for the places in the Triumph.

Of the British contingent, Quel Destin (8/1 Ladbrokes) is the one who travels to Cheltenham with the loudest claims. Paul Nicholls’ youngster grabbed his second victory over hurdles here in the Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle back in November. Three further victories have followed, including a hard-fought win in the Grade One Summit Juvenile at Chepstow, where Quel Destin battled bravely to repel the interests of Adjali (20/1 Betfair).

Following that narrow defeat, Adjali was fancied by many to get the win on Trials’ Day. Sadly, for Nicky Henderson, the Munir & Souede-owned youngster couldn’t live with Fakir D’Oudairies’s jumping and turn of pace, passing the post a well-beaten third. Henderson feels his juvenile has come on leaps and bounds since then, but Adjali didn’t jump well at all that day around Cheltenham and he has a big question to answer in Grade One company.

Gordon Elliott won this race with Farclas last season and Surin (33/1 William Hill) looks to be his best shot of retaining the title this time around. Elliott’s filly traded victories with Gardens Of Babylon earlier in the season and ran well again at Leopardstown, finishing third behind her seasonal rival, some six-and-a-half-lengths behind Sir Erec.

Tiger Tap Tap (14/1 Ladbrokes) pushed Sir Erec all the way to the line when the pair clashed on their stable debuts. The gap between the two was much wider at the Dublin Racing Festival, with Willie Mullins’ charge passing the post a well-beaten fourth and he has plenty of ground to make up on the market leader.

I’m trying to find reasons why I should oppose SIR EREC. At 6/5, he doesn’t really offer much value and the Triumph has thrown up surprise results in the past. Despite those valid points, I’m still finding it damn-near impossible to go against the market leader.

Sir Erec looked head-and-shoulders above his rivals at Leopardstown, dictating the tempo before producing some electrifying jumps on the final circuit. Mark Walsh could even afford to ease his mount down in the final 100 yards before securing his first Grade One triumph by six lengths. Cheltenham will pose a different challenge to this scopey sort, but Sir Erec won well on undulating tracks during his time on the flat and I have no doubts that he would stay further than two miles, given the opportunity.

If we were guaranteed a large field, I wouldn’t hesitate in tipping Quel Destin at an each-way price, as I’ve been really impressed with everything I’ve seen from this hardy youngster. Yet, the O’Brien team’s decision to move Fakir D’Oudairies to Tuesday’s opener suggests supreme confidence in Sir Erec’s ability. With the Triumph likely to cut up to around seven or eight runners, there may only be two paid places available - making the favourite look even more solid at the top of the market.

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2019 Triumph Hurdle tips – Favourite hard to oppose in Gold Cup day opener

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