AFTER a profitable Thursday, Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) looks to kick-off Friday’s action with a winner.
Triumph Hurdle | 13.30 Friday | Channel 4
This race has supposed to become easier to predict with the introduction of the Fred Winter to dilute the quantity of the field, but we're left with a field of 14 and a case can be made for plenty of them.
Where do we start? Ivanovich Gorbatov (9/2 Ladbrokes) runs here for Aidan O'Brien and is marked up as the race favourite.
Would Ivanovich Gorbatov be favourite if he had different connections? No. But he comes here with a good chance.
An impressive winner on debut beating Let's Dance in good style, he was disappointing on his next start in a Group 1 at Leopardstown on heavy ground.
The ground was blamed for that and he is expected to improve on the good ground at Cheltenham – his flat speed could be an asset on the surface but he's not for me.
Alan King has a fantastic record in this race and his main runner looks like Sceau Royal (7/1 Ladbrokes). He won a Triumph Hurdle trial over course and distance here in December before confirming little more than he still has four legs in a facile victory at Huntingdon in January.
Sceau Royal has to be taken seriously from a stable that does well in this race however I'm looking elsewhere for my selection.
Footbad (8/1 Ladbrokes) comes in to this the shortest-priced of the Willie Mullins contingent and is the mount of Ruby Walsh.
After a slow start to his hurdling career he's really got the hold of the discipline and after a facile victory at Gowran Park, he followed up with a Grade 1 victory at Leopardstown beating two of today's rivals. He's an improving sort and has to be taken seriously too, but he's not for me.
The one I'm going for is the Adonis winner Zubayr (9/2 Ladbrokes) from the Paul Nichols yard. That was his only start over hurdles and there is no telling how much improvement he has in him.
Zubayr ran twice on the flat in France and was purchased for €380,000 by connections to go hurdling. This is a substantial investment but it looks like a wise one as he comes in to this race as one of the most exciting prospects around.
The Adonis was run at a tremendous gallop and he travelled supremely well throughout. It looked a good renewal and despite his inexperience he was well on top in the end.
This is a tougher race but I feel Zubayr is up to the task and will get us off to a flier on the final day.
Triumph Hurdle – Zubayr to win (9/2 Ladbrokes)
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