The JCB Triumph Hurdle is The Festivals four-year-old championship contest and takes place on Friday, March 13. This years race has attracted 83 entries, including 20 trained in Ireland , two from France and one from Germany.
Always one of the most competitive contests at The Festival, the JCB Triumph Hurdle has attracted 83 entries in 2009, including 20 from Ireland and two from France . There are several unbeaten four-year-olds engaged, including Zaynar from the Nicky Henderson stable and Starluck, who could aim to give Alan Fleming a Festival winner in his first season as a trainer. Alan King won the JCB Triumph Hurdle in 2005 with Penzance and with subsequent Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle victor Katchit in 2007. This year he has another strong contender in Walkon, who advertised his credentials with success in the Grade Two Wragge & Co Finesse Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day.
Nicky Henderson won the JCB Triumph Hurdle with First Bout (1985), Alone Success (1987) and Katarino (1999) and he has one of the favourites for this years race in Zaynar, who defeated the Alan King-trained Walkon on his hurdling debut at Newbury in December before registering an easy victory at Ascot on January 17.
Walkon franked the form with victory in Chepstows Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle, as well the Grade Two Wragge & Co Juvenile Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham on January 24, in which he saw off the Nick Williams-trained Reve De Sivola.
Hendersons hand is strengthened by Newbury winner Optimus Maximus, who is among six entries for the Seven Barrows handler, while King, who won the race with Katchit (2007) and Penzance (2005), has an eight-strong contingent that also includes the filly Cosmea, unbeaten in two starts over hurdles, and Mount Helicon.
Paul Nicholls was successful in 2008 with Celestial Halo and he has five entries, including Pepite De Soleil and Hebridean. David Pipes nine entries include Master Of Arts, a prolific winner on the Flat for Sir Mark Prescott, another smart Flat recruit in Nice Style and Auteuil winner Ruthenoise.
The Alan Fleming-trained Starluck landed a hat-trick at Kempton on December 27, while the Howard Johnson-trained Silk Drum was runner-up to Resounding Glory - trained by Richard Fahey - at Wetherby in October and has won both starts since.
Philip Hobbs, victorious with Made In Japan (2004) and Detroit City (2006), relies on Bruslini and Nampour. The Evan Williams-trained Simarian won a Grade Two over the course and distance at The Open but has proved no match for Walkon twice since, while the Nick Gifford-trained Helium goes from strength to strength with his latest triumph at Sandown on December 5.
The Oliver Brady-trained Ebadiyan is a leading Irish fancy following his defeat of the Gordon Elliott-trained Tharawaat in a Grade Three contest at Punchestown on January 12. The latter was also runner-up to the Christy Roche-trained Lethal Weapon in the Grade One Durkan New Homes Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstowns Christmas Festival.
The Willie Mullins-trained Mourad and Jumbo Rio, trained by Edward OGrady, fought out the finish to a maiden hurdle at Punchestown on December 31, in which Ebadiyan was third. Mullins has four entries in total, while OGrady could also saddle Alexander Severus, winner of a Leopardstown maiden hurdle.
Robbie Hennessy has entered the smart Flat recruit Donegal. Out Voted won his only start over hurdles at Leopardstown on December 27 for trainer Jessica Harrington. Francois Doumen captured the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Snowdrop in 2000 and has engaged Pour Changer and True Blue Saga, runner-up to Starluck at Kempton. German trainer Christian Von Der Recke saddled Der Spieler to finish third that day.