You could be forgiven for thinking that the Triumph Hurdle has a reputation for providing a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of potential Cheltenham stars of the future. However, only Katchit (winner in 2007) has won this four-year-old event and gone on to win at another Festival in the past 30 years! Zarkandar and Celestial Halo are two recent winners of the race, that whilst not winning for a second time at Prestbury Park, have shown Triumph Hurdle winners can survive in elite company as they get older and and there is no shortage of contenders in 2015 who will be confident of ending that trend over the next few years.
Key Triumph Hurdle Trends
Before analysing those in the mix to win this year's renewal of the Triumph Hurdle, here's some of the key trends that recent winners share.
The last 24 winners all ran within 55 days of the Festival.
9 of the last 10 winners had all had at least two starts over hurdles prior to the Festival.
9 of the last ten winners had all won at least half of their starts over hurdles.
7 of the last 10 winners had won a hurdles race by seven legnths or more.
9 of the last 10 winners were sired by a Group One winner on the flat.
Only one of the last 13 favourites has won the race.
Had a Racing Post Rating of 132 or higher.
Leading Fancies for 2015
Peace and Co sets the early pace in the 2015 Triumph Hurdle betting, with the Nicky Henderson trained runner a best priced 5/2 chance following a 19 length demolition of five rivals on his British debut at Doncaster in December. He arrived at Seven Barrows after winning his only start in France, which is a good sign after three of the last six winners of the race had raced across the English Channel prior to joining British yards. With only two races to his name, there is a lot of guessing as to just how good Peace and Co is but based on breeding (by Falco, winner of a Group One in France), history suggests that he should have the pedigree to win the Triumph with 9 of the last 10 winners being sired by Group One winners. There was plenty to suggest he is a classy type judged on the manner of his Doncaster win and he is the worthy favourite at this stage.
Bristol De Mai is another French-bred juvenile on course to take his chance in the Triumph after making a winning start to life in Britain under the stewardship of Nigel Twiston-Davies. He doesn't have Group One pedigree but looked every bit a future star when recording an easy six-length victory at Chepstow over Christmas against some useful opposition that had plenty of wins between them this season, including Golden Doyen, winner of the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham's Open meeting in November and subsequently a leading player in the ante-post market but is now a 33/1 chance after only finishing fifth on that occasion but he did look better when second to Top Notch at Ascot last Saturday (17th January). Top Notch is another from the Nicky Henderson stable that has been imported from France that remains unbeaten after four starts, twice in France and twice now on British soil, the other win prior to that Ascot success came at Newbury in December and he certainly looks to be progressing in the right direction and is currently a best price 16/1 for Triumph Hurdle glory. Bristol De Mai meanwhile is regarded as the biggest threat to Peace and Co at this stage and can be backed at 8/1.
There are two more Nicky Henderson inmates towards the head of the betting, they are Bivouac, winner of his two starts in moderate company since coming over to Britain from France and Hargam, yet another from France whose two runs on this side of the Channel have both come at Cheltenham. He finished second behind Golden Doyen in November before winning the Triumph Trial at the International meeting in December, he is subsequently a 14/1 chance whilst Bivouac is a best price 20/1.
The Irish Contingent
Irish trained runners have won the past two renewals of the Triumph Hurdle having previously gone 10 years without victory and the leading challenger at this stage from the Emerald Isle is the Willie Mullins trained and Rich Ricci owned Kalkir. Yet another French import, the son of the Group One winning Montmartre made an impressive debut for his new connections at Fairyhouse in November, beating 14 rivals in a Grade Three juvenile hurdle by eight lengths. However, he failed to build on that in a Grade Two event at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting, finishing two lengths behind Fiscal Focus. That was the Desmond McDonogh trained runner's first start over hurdles and was hugely impressive and the form reads well, so much so, that he was installed at odds of 16/1 to win the Triumph. Despite beating Kalkir, it is the Willie Mullins horse remains favoured of the two though and is a best price 10/1. As such, it is Fiscal Focus who represents the better value of the pair.
Peace and Go certainly sets the standard based on his sole start in the UK but given the embarrassment of riches in this division from the Nicky Henderson yard, it would be foolish to take 5/2 when there are so many unexposed types in the market.
Many of the leading players will likely have another run before the Festival, which will better aide ante-post punters but by then, the value could be long gone and as such, it makes sense to back what is seemingly the value pick of those mentioned, and that is Fiscal Focus. He boasts plenty of experience for his age given he was campaigned on the flat with James Bolger and his victory at Leopardstown was hugely eye-catching for a hurdles debut. If he was from one of Ireland's more fashionable yards, there's little doubt that his price would be half the 20/1 on offer and with more likely to come for that Grade Two success, he makes plenty of each-way appeal.