The final day of the Festival gets underway with the cavalry charge that is the Triumph Hurdle. The race always attracts a large field, which means that luck in running is critical.
All the runners are four year olds and so inexperience has also tended to be a problem in the past. However, it seems to be less so these days with more horses coming to the juvenile ranks straight from lengthy careers on the Flat.
Because they are so much more battle hardened than their more traditionally jumps bred counterparts, it is becoming almost impossible to win the race with anything other than either a decent recruit from the Flat or a French bred runner – racehorses in France begin schooling and racing over obstacles much earlier than British or Irish horses.
2007 victor, Katchit, was the first winner of this race since Kribensis in 1988 to go on to win the Champion Hurdle. On the whole, most winners tend to need much longer trips as their careers progress. Paddy’s Return, for example, became a top class staying hurdler, Katarino won the Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree over 2m 5½f two years in a row and, most notably of all, Commanche Court won the Irish National and was placed in a Gold Cup.
2017 Defi Du Deuil 5/2 F
2016 Ivanovich Gorbatov
2015 Peace and Co
2014 Tiger Roll
2013 Our Conor
2012 Countrywide Flame
2008 Celestial Halo
2006 Detroit City
2004 Made In Japan
2000 Snow Drop
1997 Commanche Court
1996 Paddy’s Return
1992 Duke Of Monmouth
1991 Oh So Risky
1990 Rare Holiday
(prior winners detailed at bottom of page)
1. The JCB Triumph Hurdle was formerly run at Hurst Park and transferred to Cheltenham in 1965 on the closure of the London course.
2. JCB, which supports the contest for the 10th time this year, is only the race’s third sponsor. The Elite Racing Club was due to back the race for a fifth time in 2001 when The Festival was cancelled, while the Daily Express sponsored from 1965 to 1996. The race was originally run at the April Meeting but was transferred to The Festival in 1968.
3. The JCB Triumph Hurdle has been one of the most competitive races at The Festival. The 2008 field of 14 was by far the smallest since Connaught Ranger beat 13 rivals in 1978 - the recent introduction of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle has meant that the JCB Triumph Hurdle now attracts only the very best four-year-olds. The race regularly reached the safety factor, reduced from 28 to 24 in 2004. In fact, the 14 runners in Connaught Ranger's year probably had more to do with the transfer of the race to April following the abandonment of racing on Gold Cup day than any loss of its competitive nature. The smallest field was for its first running at Cheltenham in 1965, when seven runners took part. The largest field was 31 in 1970.
4. Since the race has been at Cheltenham, there has only once been an odds-on winner of the Triumph Hurdle. This was Attivo, owned by former BBC TV commentator Sir Peter O'Sullevan, in 1973 at 4/5. The longest-priced winners were Baron Blakeney, Shiny Copper and Ikdam at 66/1 in 1981, 1982 and 1989.
5. Three horses have gone on from winning the JCB Triumph Hurdle to victory in the Stan James Champion Hurdle. Persian War won the Triumph in 1967, and reeled off three Champion Hurdles from 1968-70, Kribensis won the Triumph in 1988 and the Champion Hurdle in 1990, while in 2008 Katchit added a Champion Hurdle victory to his success in the 2007 JCB Triumph Hurdle.
6. The JCB Triumph Hurdle has a good record for home-trained winners. French-trained raiders won it on four consecutive occasions at Hurst Park from 1950-53, again in 1955 and with Snow Drop in 2000. There have only been six Irish successes (1977, 1984, 1990, 1993, 1997 and 2002). Nicky Henderson is the winning-most trainer, having triumphed with First Bout (1985), Alone Success (1987), Katarino (1999), Zaynar (2009) and Soldatino (2010).
7. Among jockeys, Jimmy Uttley and Barry Geraghty are the most successful with three wins each. Perhaps the most interesting name on the roll of honour is that of Lester Piggott, who won the race on King Charlemagne when run at Hurst Park in 1954.
8. The fastest time for the winning horse is 3m 51.20s, recorded in 2006 by Detroit City. The previous best was 3m 52.90s, set by Snow Drop in 2000.
9. It has a justifiable reputation for being one of the more unpredictable contests at The Festival - there have been three 66/1 winners and only eight successful favourites since 1965.
10. Three fillies have been successful; Snow Drop in 2000, Mysilv in 1994 and Shawiya in 1993.
2012 Triumph Hurdle Review
After a run of fancied winners, the race reverted to type in 2012 with COUNTRYWIDE FLAME flooring his rivals (and punters!) at odds of 33/1. That said, the winner could have been given a squeak on some bits of previous form and his starting price was more to do with the fact he was housed in the 'unfashionable' stable of John Quinn.
The furious pace of the race clearly helped his cause and he stayed on well to beat Irish raider Hisaabaat (20/1) by three lengths, with the Alan King-trained Grumetti, who was sent off 5/1 favourite, just three quarters of a length away in third.
There were a couple of significant fallers in the race with Balder Success (15/2) crashing out in mid-race, and Pearl Swan (7/1) falling at the last when in seventh and staying on. It's doubtful he would have troubled the winner, though.
2011 Triumph Hurdle Review
13-2 shot Zarkandar landed the JCB Triumph Hurdle for legendary trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Daryl Jacob in the first race on the final day of the 2011 Cheltenham Festival.
The son of Azamour powered up the famous Cheltenham hill to beat Unaccompanied (11-2) by two-and-a-quarter lengths. Nicky Henderson's hugely talented Grandouet (13-2) travelled well for a long way finished third, while 4-1 favourite Sam Winner ran on from a long way back for fourth in the Grade One.
2010 Triumph Hurdle Review
An extraordinary renewal of this blue riband event for juveniles as the front running tactics of Barizan meant that very few of the runners ever got into the race.
Barizan was soon in a clear lead and he just seemed to go further and further ahead as most of the other jockeys seemed to ignore him, clearly thinking he had gone off too fast. However, by the time he approached the second last he still had a long lead and the pilots in behind started to panic.
Indeed it was only between the last two flights that Barizan began to wilt and a tired jump at the last enabled SOLDATINO to pass him on the run in to register another success in this contest for Nicky Henderson.
This was only the third start over hurdles for the winner, and only the second in this country, so plenty of improvement can be expected.
Deservedly and gamely, Barizan was able to hold on for second. His tactics are likely to be even more successful on flatter tracks, but this effort may take its toll in the short term both mentally and physically.
There was a gap back to the third and fourth the well backed Irish pair of Alaivan and Carlito Brigante.
Alaivan was the first to go out after the runner up and whilst the overnight ran helped his chances he would have probably preferred the ground to be even softer. He was very classy on the Flat and can win more races over hurdles.
By contrast, Carlito Brigante has been doing most of his winning on decent ground and on flatter tracks, and this was a decent enough effort. However, like most of these he was never really competitive.
Barwell Bridge stayed on from a long way back to claim fifth and may improve for a step up in trip in due course.
Gilded Age was sixth for another trainer who does well with his juveniles. He missed the cut for the Fred Winter but given his fine effort here that might have been a blessing in disguise.
A note for the trends followers - nine of the past ten winners of this race had been first past the post in their previous starts (Scolardy was disqualified after winning his prep race) and while only eight of these came into this off the back of a win, Soldatino's success maintained the trend.
2009 Triumph Hurdle Review
A further dry night had left the ground close to perfect ahead of the final day of the Festival, a day which started with another vintage renewal of the Triumph Hurdle - the championship race for juveniles.
The finish was eventually fought out by most of the market principles, giving the form a very solid look indeed, and there is every reason to suspect that the winner, ZAYNAR, will be capable of matching the deeds of other recent winners of this contest - Detroit City, Katchit and Celestal Halo.
Zaynar has raced lazily in all his starts to date and so it was no surprise to see him fitted with first time cheek pieces here. Even then, he still needed to be shaken up a couple times during the race, but he found plenty for pressure when challenged after the last by Walkon and in pricking his ears shortly after the line he suggested there was a fair bit left in the tank.
Whilst he will obviously stay further in time, he looks the sort who will always only do just enough and so we may well have not seen the best of him yet over two miles. A crack at the Champion Hurdle may therefore, be on the cards next season.
Walkon gave everything in second and was simply beaten by a better horse on the day. He lost nothing in defeat and will also be suited by a step up in trip in due course. He is certainly good enough to have won many a Triumph Hurdle, and was unlucky to bump into as good a winner of this race as we’ve seen in recent years.
Mourad ran a blinder in third to prove best of the Irish juveniles. He was given a patient ride out the back and was never nearer to the leaders than at the death. Again, with stamina apparently his forte, he is likely to step up in trip next season.
By contrast, there has always been a doubt about Starluck’s ability to stay a truly run two miles on a stiff track such as this, and having been travelling best of all turning for home, he weakened on the long run to the last and had nothing left climbing the hill to the line. Flat tracks and decent ground are likely to bring out the best in him next season, and he can be a threat to event the top two milers when he has conditions to suit.
Trenchant, a stablemate of Walkon, was a highly respectable fifth. He seemed to enjoy the fast pace here, and the hustle and bustle of a large field.
The maiden, Reve De Sivola (sixth), already had some high class form to his name and this was another encouraging effort. Connections are likely to preserve his novice status for next season and it would be no surprise to see him back here contesting the Supreme Novices or the Ballymore Properties at the 2010 Festival.
The first six were nicely clear of the rest and the only possible hard luck story was Ebadiyan who had made all of the running, and was just in front on the inside, when he cocked his jaw and ran out on the approach to the second last.
2008 Triumph Hurdle Review
The introduction of the Fred Winter Hurdle has undoubtedly had a positive impact on this race, as it has led to smaller, classier fields and less hard luck stories. Those changes should allow the cream to more readily rise to the top and that certainly happened here with the two big guns locking horns from some way out and having the race between them turning for home.
In the end, it was a performance of real guts, as well as quality, that finally saw second favourite CELESTIAL HALO overcome his market rival, Franchoek, for the runner up persistently challenged the winner all the way up the straight, but simply couldn’t get by. The win was even more meritorious for the fact that Celestial Halo had led the field for almost the entire race and consequently was a sitting duck for all his rivals.
He has the size and scope to go on over hurdles and the Champion Hurdle could well be on the agenda next season, although time may show that he’ll need further than two miles when competing against the very best.
Franchoek will almost certainly be stepped up in trip next season. He lost little in defeat here but didn’t have the turn off foot to get past the winner. He has had a terrific season, but also a number of hard races, and they may have caught up with him here. He should bounce back, though, as he’s as game, consistent and tough as they come and there are plenty more good performances in him.
Nothing else ever really looked like winning and the order changed little throughout. Won In The Dark put up a career best effort to finish third, whilst there was a decent gap back to Songe in fourth who justified his connections’ decisions to swerve the Fred Winter.
Of the rest, Serabad (sixth) and Personal Column (seventh) are the most interesting as they have the size and scope to go on and jump fences.
2007 Triumph Hurdle Review
After last year’s excellent renewal, this race looked another top quality Triumph Hurdle and it produced one of the performances of the meeting as KATCHIT simply bounded clear of his rivals in the straight to win by nine lengths – an amazing winning margin in such a competitive heat.
There can now be no doubt that Katchit is the best juvenile around and time may show him to be the best for many years. Indeed, he may easily develop into a serious Champion Hurdle contender next season.
All this seems a million miles from the hopes connections had for the horse when he started his hurdling career, as he wasn’t that good on the Flat and his trainer thought he was tough but no superstar. However, he has improved no end for the change of code and also seems to love Cheltenham - this was his fourth consecutive win here.
He has a great attitude to racing, jumps particularly well for a young horse and seemed to improve further for encountering some better ground over hurdles for the first time here. He’s not the biggest, but is all heart and will prove hard to beat at any level. The only proviso is the poor record of five year olds in the Champion Hurdle in recent years, a statistic that Detroit City failed so spectacularly to improve on this year.
The rest were simply running for places from a long way out. Liberate won that battle despite being niggled at by Richard Johnson from some way out. He was more of a stayer on the Flat and should relish a step up in trip next season.
Mobaasher ran really well to finish in the frame on only his third start over hurdles. He travelled well through the race, as you’d expect from a horse who was as smart as him on the Flat, and should be able to use his turn of foot to good effect over hurdles in the coming months.
Having been up with the pace throughout, Punjabi looked the main danger to the winner coming down the hill. However, he just seemed to run out of gas turning for home and faded into fourth. He may get closer to the winner if the two cross swords on Aintree’s flatter track. Connections may also decide to ride him with more restraint in the future.
J’y Vole was another who could be spotted travelling smoothly for much of the race. She only ran twice on the Flat and this was her first start over hurdles on anything other than very soft ground. It didn’t seem to inconvenience her and she is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Crookhaven definitely enjoyed the better going and he belied his huge odds to run a personal best in seventh. He was decent on the Flat and could be equally good at this game if kept to this surface. It certainly shouldn’t be long before he breaks his duck over hurdles.
There were plenty of disappointments in the race.
Favourite Lounaos was bang there at the top of the hill and seemed to have no excuses. She may prefer softer ground and was probably flattered by her proximity to Hardy Eustace in the AIG Champion Hurdle last time out.
After all being prominent until halfway Duty, Mountain and Pauillac all faded tamely and the latter two were pulled up in the end. Again, all three may have not enjoyed the ground, although Mountain, in particular, was disappointing given his quality on the Flat and the form he showed when winning his only previous start over hurdles. He won’t be a novice next season and may prove hard to place, as the handicapper is unlikely to show him much mercy.
2006 Triumph Hurdle Review
Possibly the best Triumph Hurdle of recent years was won in scintillating fashion by DETROIT CITY in a manner that had many punters doing a double take to check that we really were watching Phillip Hobbs’ four year old rather than the other grey who carried these colours so gloriously in recent years, Rooster Booster.
Connections will seldom have dreamed it possible that the ever popular ex Champion Hurdler could be replaced, but this victory will surely have owner Terry Warner contemplating another crack at the race Rooster Booster won so imperiously in 2003.
It is one of the most quoted statistics in the game that five year old hurdlers have a terrible record in Champion Hurdles (seventy horses have tried and failed since See You Then was successful in 1985). However, very few juveniles have the size and scope of this horse and his lazy style of running suggests we haven’t seen anything like the best of him yet.
The pace here was strong from the off, and the race was won in record time confirming the initial visual impression that this was a top class effort from the winner, who was five lengths clear at the death.
As is his custom, Detroit City was being pushed along from as early as the fourth but, as with Brave Inca earlier in the week, this proved to be no barrier to success as he outstayed the runner up, Fair Along, after the last.
Surprisingly for such a competitive race, the first two had the contest to themselves from some way out and Fair Along emerges with great credit, having led for most of the way. He has run well at Cheltenham in the past and is a real top of the ground sort.
Blazing Baileys stayed on best of the rest to take third. He has improved out of all recognition since his switch from the Flat and will be even better over further next year (a comment that also applies to the likes of Turko in 6th and Mahogany Blaze in 7th). He has a very willing attitude and will surely win more races.
Afsoun ran as well as could be expected given his interrupted preparation for the race, whilst Breathing Fire would surely have been placed had he not fallen at the last. He is another who is considerably better on decent ground.
Roll of Honour (1965-1988)
(recent winners detailed towards top of page)
Elite Racing Club Triumph Hurdle from 1997-2000, Daily Express Triumph Hurdle 1965- 1996, previously run at Hurst Park. Held at Cheltenham’s April meeting from 1965-67
Year Winner Age/Wt Jockey Trainer SP
1988 Kribensis 4-11-00 Richard Dunwoody Michael Stoute 6/1
1987 Alone Success 4-11-00 Steve Smith Eccles Nicky Henderson 11/1
1986 Solar Cloud 4-11-00 Peter Scudamore David Nicholson 40/1
1985 First Bout 4-11-00 Steve Smith Eccles Nicky Henderson 5/1
1984 Northern Game 4-11-00 Tommy Ryan Edward O'Grady IRE 20/1
1983 Saxon Farm 4-11-00 Mark Perrett Stan Mellor 12/1
1982 Shiny Copper 4-11-00 Allen Webb Dina Smith 66/1
1981 Baron Blakeney 4-11-00 Paul Leach Martin Pipe 66/1
1980 Heighlin 4-11-00 Steve Jobar David Elsworth 40/1
1979 Pollardstown 4-11-00 Philip Blacker Stan Mellor 12/1
1978 Connaught Ranger 4-11-00 John Burke Fred Rimell 25/1
1977 Meladon 4-11-00 Tommy Carberry Adrian Maxwell IRE 6/1
1976 Peterhof 4-11-00 Jonjo O'Neill Mick Easterby 10/1
1975 Royal Epic 4-11-00 Fred McKenna Vernon Cross 20/1
1974 Attivo 4-11-00 Robert Hughes Cyril Mitchell 4/5F
1973 Moonlight Bay 4-11-00 Johnnie Haine Ryan Price 85/40F
1972 Zarib 4-11-00 Bill Smith Fred Rimell 16/1
1971 Boxer 4-11-03 Jimmy Uttley Ron Smyth 100/30JF
1970 Varma 4-11-04 Brian Barker Mick Masson 100/7
1969 Coral Diver 4-11-04 Terry Biddlecombe Fred Rimell 3/1F
1968 England’s Glory 4-11-00 Jimmy Uttley Staff Ingham 9/2
1967 Persian War 4-11-08 Jimmy Uttley Brian Swift 4/1
1966 Black Ice 4-11-04 Bobby Beasley Arthur Thomas 9/2
1965 Blarney Beacon 4-11-04 Geordie Ramshaw Ron Smyth 8/1