Trial races can often be overhyped but the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle has provided a fountain of clues in recent years for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and Saturday’s renewal of the Kempton Park Grade Two may have helped paint a clearer picture of the four-year-old title, which takes place on the final day of this year’s meeting on Friday, March 15th.
Since the turn of the century, four winners have managed to use victory in the Adonis as a springboard to Triumph glory at Prestbury Park, with Snow Drop (2000), Penzance (2005), Soldatino (2010) and Zarkandar (2011) all etching their names in both crowns, but can Saturday’s winner Irish Saint emulate that quartet and progress to Cheltenham glory?
Sent off a 5/4 favourite for the Adonis, the Paul Nicholls trained Irish Saint appeared to have it all to do turning into the straight as Ruby Walsh became more and more active in the saddle, but the Ditcheat inmate gradually got rocking and rolling in the closing stages and eventually came upsides Vasco Du Ronceray.
Driven out after a good leap at the last flight, Walsh managed to cajole him past Nicky Henderson’s raider and he won by half-a-length which forced Bet365 to cut him to 12/1 for next month’s Triumph Hurdle, but with a strong bunch of four-year-olds set to line up at Cheltenham, he will need to produce a slicker effort than Saturday’s performance.
Outpaced in the middle of the race, Walsh had looked to be fighting a losing battle, but he showed he could well be a future stayer in the making as he was producing his finest work in the latter stages, as he reeled in Vasco Du Ronceray, who is 14/1 with Bet365 for the Triumph, and asserting late on.
A strong pace from the flag fall, the Triumph could well suit Irish Saint, but it’s debatable as to whether he possesses the required speed to be victorious in the race and there could well be a whole host of more attractive betting propositions in the current ante-post market for the 2m Grade One prize.
Irish Saint’s victory at the weekend saw Bet365 slightly trim Rolling Star’s price to 9/2 as he comfortably beat him in the Triumph Hurdle Trial on Cheltenham’s Festival Trials Day and Henderson’s premier challenger for the crown could well be one of the leading contenders for the race and along with Far West (4/1) and Our Conor (9/2) is one of a trio of horses who spearhead the market with just over two weeks to go.
Vasco Du Ronceray may have finished a close second, but Henderson may opt to send him down the Fred Winter route, whilst Alan King’s mare L’unique (33/1 for Triumph) lost her unbeaten tag and looks to face a difficult task in reversing the form.
A potential improver from the race is Courtesy Call, who was making her hurdling debut for Henderson after a decent career on the Flat for Mark Johnston and having travelled well until the second last flight was just outclassed by the front two, but he is sure to improve and at 25/1 in the latest betting with Bet365 could be scribed into a few notebooks.