RACING fan Pete Hamill (@RiskForRewards) picks out favourite fancies from Day 4 of the Cheltenham Festival on Friday.
JCB Triumph Hurdle | Friday 19th March 2021, 13:20 | ITV1
Background: This race seems to have grown in both class and stature since the introduction of the Boodles Juvenile, as more horses seem to be purchased with a view to training for either.
This is the elite of the two, run over the supreme trip but on the new course. In recent years there have been future group 1 winners and placed horses such as Defi Du Seuil, Aspire Tower and Allmankind going on to group one victories. Therefore despite a few mixed results the class has tended to rise to the top.
Statistics: 14/21 won or placed in graded race last time out. 8/12 unbeaten. 10/16 single figure price. 9/11 raced in Finesse (none entered here from that race), Adonis (Tritonic) or Spring Juvenile (Quilixios). 11/13 winners had less than 3 runs. Henderson won the race 7 times (no significant entry). Elliott has had 6 runners in 7 years (two winners and two seconds) Zanahiyr and Quilixios entered.
Tritonic – ticks all of the stats boxes in winning a big trial, short priced, unbeaten and a graded winner last time out. His price is very short largely down to the other two market leaders having unsettled preparations and recency bias with his victory only occurring last weekend (shortened 10/1 into 9/4) he has fast become the ‘hype' horse.
Last time out he contested the Group 1 Adonis Juvenile (good trial for the race). He travelled powerfully but his jumping was not fluent at any point in the race, looking in trouble mid-race only to come back on the bridle and power away from his rivals. The form is yet to be tested but it looked a very poor renewal of the race with very ordinary form (filled with maidens, debutants and a modest bunch).
The same horse filled the runner up spot on both occasions (Casa Loupi) twice so he has not met anything of a higher standard than he did when winning before. Casa Loupi has been beaten this week at odds of 8/15. Whilst this does not directly reflect on the horse it still is not a positive.
The positives are; he is thoroughly unexposed having only his second hurdles start and that he was a hugely talented flat horse (rated 99). The end of the race should suit in that there are only 2 flight of hurdles in the last 5-6f so hitting the home straight he should be able to utilise his flat speed. The good ground will play to his strengths but he will need to improve his jumping in order to still be in contention.
Zanahiyr – this horse has been the talking horse since the start of the season when blowing away the best of the Mullins juveniles in Saint Sam. I was blown away that day and he looked the real deal but over the years it has paid to be sceptical of juvenile form, as they often tend to beat each other or not back it up.
He definitely has the best form coming into the race having won a fast run Group 1 and then a very slow run Group 1. This versatility looks to make him almost unflappable for any race scenario.
The most significant factor when looking at trials is the clock matching the visual. His run at Fairyhouse displayed a time 10 seconds faster than Royal bond winner (Supreme novice hurdle second) Ballyadam and 4 seconds faster than bumper winner Grand Paradis (who jumped no hurdles).
The better the ground the better his chance, but he ticks all the right boxes being a slick jumper, strong traveller and a classy individual. He also has the huge benefit that he has not changed stable or any adjustment to routine.
He looks to be the full package and hold everything to win a race of this nature and with his trainer having sent out two winners and two seconds from only 6 runners in this race he knows exactly what it takes.
Quilixios – This horse has come in to the race as the stable number two but has shown nothing on the clock or with his form that indicates they are very closely matched. His level of form but has been very close to matching but has just been campaigned with a quieter preparation in mind.
His win over Saint Sam in the Spring juvenile (good trial for this) last time out was comfortable and using him as a yardstick there is not a lot between the two Elliot contenders. His time that day was 10 lengths faster than Supreme Novice hurdle winner Appreciate It over the same trip.
Significant on that day was a huge drift followed by a downpour of money for him, the trainer seemed very confident despite the four month absence that he had horses at home who he could gauge his level of fitness with. Reading between the lines I would imagine these two used to do plenty of work together.
The two concerns for this horse would be the late stable switch (though this has had no effect on other runners so far this week) for such an inexperienced horse prior to Cheltenham and the ground. He was pulled out on several occasions due to not wanting good ground and whilst we have not seen anything to say he won't go on it all of his winning has been on yielding or worse.
Selection: I think Zanahiyr 6/4 ticks all of the right boxes, clocking times being compared to a juvenile great in Our Connor and fully expect him to be the one to beat. I think 6/4 is more reflective on this season’s achievement having been 5/2 a few days ago. I think there is very little between him and Quilixios and he is definitely worth a saver.
Whilst I respect Tritonic his price has been made artificially too short on what he is achieved and I do not like the chinks in his jumping. I will be disappointed if the two Elliot runners don't have the race between them and could even offer the trainer a 1-2 in the race.
Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle | Friday 19th March 2021, 16:50 | ITV1
Statistics: Last 3 winners all top weight. 12/12 11-1 or more. 10/12 had 8 runs or less. 12/12 7 or younger. Pipe 0-20. Mullins most successful 3 winners from 22 horses. Elliot two winners and two seconds from 17 in last five years. Nicholls 2 winners in last 8 years (2/21 runners).
Gallopin Des Champs – Mullins has a great record in the race (3 winners from 22). A lightly raced type with only four runs to date, three of which have been for Mullins. On hurdling debut he finished behind Sea Ducor in a race won by Franco De Port the year before so a race he targets.
Next start he was tried in a grade 2 before struggling throughout and pulled out of which after found to have a minor injury. Surprisingly on return he returned in the Group 1 Chanelle Pharma at the Dublin racing festival.
He jumped with great fluency and travelled very well to three out when still in contention staying all the way to the line. He looked booked for third before walking through the last and finishing a staying on 6th behind the supreme winner Appreciate it. This run seems to have gone under the race and he enters this race thoroughly unexposed.
The way he stayed on to the line suggest this step up in trip will suit and having only been given 1lb from the British handicapper he is of significant interest off 142. This puts him 1lb of top weight, which lines with the statistics of exactly where you want your horse to be.
Gentlemen De Mee – another from Mullins is a horse with little to no experience so far under rules but does come into the race thoroughly unexposed. Issued a mark of 139 would be more of a guess from the handicapper with the horse having only had one run so far.
On that occasion he bounced out, travelled strongly and won easily from the front the only concern was a few inexperienced jumps towards the end. That was after a year off and a stable switch from G Macaire in France so easily to forgive a little bit of rust on return.
This horse reminds me of Saint Roi a handicap winner at the festival last year for the same connections. I would expect him to be held up, travel strongly and be played late and if inexperience doesn’t inconvenience he is a big player.
Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle – Gallopin Des Champs (7/1 Boylesports)
Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle – Gentlemen De Mee (9/2 Bet365)
JCB Triumph Hurdle – Zanahiyr (6/4 William Hill)
JCB Triumph Hurdle – Quilixios (9/2 Boylesports)