The Willie Mullins trained Ivan Grozny is the new favourite for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham after a big market move. The four-year-old won his first National hunt race at Naas on Saturday and there has been sustained support for him in the Triumph Hurdle betting ever since. A former classy flat horse in France, Ivan Grozny looked very good indeed at the weekend as he won the Book Hospitality On Line Maiden Hurdle over two miles.
The Graham Wylie owned horse is clearly highly thought of and that is reflected in the current Triumph Hurdle market. Prior to his Naas win he was as big as 25/1 for the juvenile race at the Festival but has been trimmed ever since into 20/1, 16/1, 12 /1 and finally 10/1 with Bet365 on Tuesday morning. That is a significant move by any standard with a couple of firms even happy to go to 8/1 about a horse who has only won one maiden hurdle so far during his career.
On the face of it, Ivan Grozny beat very little at Naas on Saturday but he certainly was very taking on the eye. He pulled well clear of Indian Icon by 12 lengths with Ruby Walsh saying afterwards that better ground will suit which certainly could play to his strengths at the Cheltenham Festival. It will also have delighted trainer Willie Mullins who was perhaps lacking a top juvenile this season, with Analifet missing the remainder of the campaign with an injury.
One note of caution for fans of Ivan Grozny is that he was run down on his hurdling début back in December with Plinth winning that day at Punchestown. There is no doubt that Ivan Grozny will have improved plenty for that run though and if, as suggested, he will improve for better ground, there is no doubt he is a major contender for the big spring Festival races.
There has been no outstanding performance from a juvenile this season with the ante-post Triumph market certainly reflecting that. Any number of horses have held favouritism for the race over the past few months with the likes of Calipto, Vicenzo Mio, Plinth and Dawalan just a selection of the horses currently available at 14/1 or less. It is Ivan Grozny though who has jumped to the head of the queue and it will be fascinating to follow his progress both on the course, and in the betting market in the lead-up to Cheltenham.