Triumph Hurdle Tips – Elliott Holds Strong Hand Among Juvenile Hurdlers

Pentland Hills wins the Triumph Hurdle in 2018

Pentland Hills wins the Triumph Hurdle in 2018

2021 Triumph Hurdle Tips

He’s back. Daniel Overall is halfway through his previews of every race at the Cheltenham Festival. He’s turned his attention to the Triumph Hurdle, which opens proceedings on day 4 of the Cheltenham festival.

2021 Triumph Hurdle overview

The complexion of the Triumph can change significantly throughout the course of the season; the last two winners made their hurdles debut after the turn of the year while the likes of the Adonis Hurdle and the Spring Hurdle, which are both run in February, often providing the winner of the Triumph.  This year has been different, with Zanahiyr emerging as the market leader at the end of November, although other challengers have emerged since. Gordon Elliott appears to hold the key to this year’s renewal, which should also be noted when assessing the Boodles Juvenile Handicap.

Elliott’s Enviable Squad

A useful horse on the flat for Mick Halford, Zanahiyr (11/4) has made a smooth and successful transition to hurdles since switching to Gordon Elliott, winning three out of three thus far. Made to work hard by Dark Voyager on his first start over obstacles, he won much more impressively in a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse next time, with Gordon noting that he improved significantly for his previous outing. 

That was a strongly run race, while he encountered the opposite in the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle over the festive period. Only eight lengths separated the seven runners, yet Zanahiyr was able to stamp his authority on the field; that tactical versatility will stand him in good stead in the Triumph, as will his accurate jumping. The vibes from the yard have been strong but it is worth noting that the last 22 winners all ran within the last two months of the Triumph; a trend which Zanahiyr will have to defy.

Elliott and the Morans also have Riviere D’etel (33/1) who is a useful filly in her own right. An impressive winner on her debut for the yard, she finished third against her elders on her most recent start. Allocated a mark of 133 by the British handicapper, she seems more likely to run in the Boodles, while it’s worth noting that the two races she’s run in this term were also contested by 2018 Boodles winner, Veneer of Charm. 

Like Zanahiyr, Quilixios (6/1) has also won all three of his starts for Gordon Elliott. The form of his two wins in October doesn’t amount to much but the manner in which he won was impressive, and those performances resulted in him being sent off as the 4/6 favourite for the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival; a race that has provided five of the last nine winners of the Triumph. Hr ran out a ready winner that day, beating Saint Sam by five lengths who had finished behind Zanahiyr on his two previous outings. He had looked like winning by further but he didn’t extend his advantage as might’ve been expected. Perhaps that was down to the three-month absence and it’s worth noting that he won in a time almost two-seconds quicker than Appreciate It who ran on the same card. 

Gordon Elliott seemed to imply that Quilixios was a long-term prospect who would stay further in time. It will be interesting to see how the market assesses his chance in comparison with Zanahiyr come the day of the race. With the Supreme looking rather weak at present, it is possible that Zanahiyr could divert to that race (Quilixios can’t as he isn’t a novice). That’s something to ear in mind in the build up to the Festival. 

Duffle Coat (16/1) reportedly shows very little in his homework but he clearly saves it all for the track. Four from four under rules, he was last seen winning a Grade 2 at Cheltenham back in November in the style of a dour stayer. He still holds entries for the Ballymore and the Albert Bartlett while he does look to be down the pecking order at Elliott’s yard, such is his embarrassment of riches in the Juvenile division. His successful Cheltenham raid perhaps signals how far ahead the Irish are in this sphere. 

Teahupoo (25/1) is also worthy of a mention after winning his debut for the yard, although his victory was in doubt until Youmdor (50/1) fell at the last when mounting a challenge. A winner in France beating a subsequent winner now trained by Paul Nicholls, there should be more improvement to come. 

Are Willie’s Fortunes Changing?

After Scolardy’s victory for Willie Mullins in 2002, the trainer had a rather barren spell in this race. However, there were signs of a turning of the tide; following a succession of placed horses in recent renewals, including a 2-3-5 in 2018, Willie finally achieved his second win in the race with Burning Victory in last year’s renewal, for all that there was more than a fair amount of good fortune involved in that win.

Saint Sam (33/1) came with a lofty reputation from France, and he was duly sent off a 4/5 favourite to beat Zanahiyr on his Irish debut. Well beaten by that rival on his first two starts, he also suffered defeat at the hands of Quilixios at the Dublin Racing Festival, for all that he has ran with plenty of credit. With that in mind, it’s hard to envisage him turning the tables on the Elliott duo, so a tilt at the Boodles could well be on the agenda.

Willie’s leading hope this year appears to be French Aseel (9/1), who was purchased by the Donnellys and sent to Mullins following an emphatic victory on his sole start for Ellmarie Holden. A winner over a mile on the flat in France, he was well supported on his Irish debut and duly delivered, sauntering to a 22-length success. Over four seconds slower that Appreciate It’s Grade 1 victory on the same card, it remains to be seen how he’ll handle a stronger run race in deeper company. Still a relatively unknown quantity, he’s a fascinating contender

British Contenders

Duffle Coat’s defeat of Adagio (10/1) in November doesn’t bode well for the British but it is important to remember that juveniles often improve significantly throughout the season, while that race fell apart setting it up perfectly for the Irish raider. Furthermore, Adagio has undoubtedly progressed since November. An easy winner on his second run at Cheltenham, he won the Grade 1 Coral Finale at Chepstow in impressive fashion. While he will need to improve again, his experience and course form are both pluses; he has each-way claims.

Second to Adagio at Chepstow, with the pair twenty-lengths clear of the remainder, Nassalam (16/1) will look to give the Moore’s happier memories of the Triumph following Goshen’s unfortunate final-flight departure last year. He won the same race Goshen did on debut and did so in similar style, with his first two victories being by a combined 108 lengths. Too keen in the early stages in the Coral Finale, he still ran a creditable race and should not be easily dismissed in the Triumph.

Connections of Tritonic (12/1) will be buoyed by the fact that both Pentland Hills and Burning Victory won the Triumph with just one prior run (and win) over hurdles. Rated 99 on the flat, he was made to work hard on his debut over obstacles but he did travel and jump well while the front two pulled nineteen-lengths clear of the rest. While Alan King is a superb dual-purpose trainer, his recent record in the Triumph is surprisingly poor. Since Grumeti finished 3rd in 2012, he’s had ten runners in the race; none of which have hit the frame. That would be a concern for Tritonic’s chances. 

Fortunes Melody (33/1) has yet to race in Britain but she does have some useful form to her name from her time in France. Sporting the colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, she has yet to run for Harry Fry but she’s an interesting contender. 

Triumph Hurdle Big-Race Verdict

Gordon Elliott holds the key to this race, with Zanahiyr taken to provide his trainer with his third Triumph victory. Adagio makes each-way appeal given his solid course form and progressive form.