Rolling Star heads the market for the Triumph Hurdle with good reason, says Alan Thompson. He also picks out a couple of longer priced runners with trading potential.
Trends & Stats
Sixteen of the last 19 winners won in their previous race
Eighteen of the last 22 winners had at least three prior starts over hurdles
Sixteen of the last 19 winners had won at least twice over hurdles
Seven of the last nine winners made hurdles debut in December or later
Only one winner rated lower than 80 on the flat since 1996
Since 1994, six Adonis Hurdle winners have gone on to win the Triumph
My Leading contenders
A very stylish winner last time, beating a well-touted Paul Nicholls inmate on his British debut over this course and distance. Liked the way he stalked and then quickened when he needed to and reckon the faster pace and bigger field will be ideal. Nicky Henderson has a great record in this race and this fella should take a lot of beating.
Twice a straightforward winner at Cheltenham, although on the latter occasion he only had two rivals to beat. He seems to have appreciated the testing ground and seems very easy to ride. The question would be: Will he appreciate the better ground and does he have the class of Rolling Star? I'm leaning towards the negative on both counts. Will run well but should find at couple too quick at the finish.
Questionable exactly what he's beaten, although what he has done he has done in style. Another Willie Mullins runner who seems to have got an easy time in front and this race will certainly be the polar opposite of what he's faced so far. Unexposed and hard to quantify - could be anything.
On a line through a horse called Crouching Harry, Blood Cotil is held by stablemate Diakali and, despite winning his last race comfortably, one gets the impression that the stable favour that horse between the two.
Had the Grade 1 juvenile at Chepstow wrapped up when falling after being thrown, somewhat unnecessarily, at the final flight. Travelled and quickened clear like a good horse and is another who'll appreciate the fast pace in a big field. At the prices he's the stand-out bet at the current 16.015/1 and, given he's effectively a Grade 1 winner in all but name, that's huge. Can see him running a massive race, but don't expect to see him until late on. Given that the Vaughan horses tend to improve for better ground and that he tends to have winners in the spring, I can see him starting at single figure price.
From the stable of last year's winner and a similar profile to that of Countrywide Flame. Stayed on well at Doncaster last time and won easier than the bare margin suggests, as he was well on top at the finish. Will stay all day and should be thundering home at the finish.
Who I'm Backing
I think this could be one of the better races at the Festival and I like Rolling Star very much - he couldn't have been more impressive on his British debut. I can see him running them down late on. But is he value? Just, there's some 6.86/1 available and I wouldn't be taking anything less than that at this stage. Will trade shorter on the day and I can see him starting nearer 4.57/2.
Also value are Swynmor and Kashmir Peak, certainly both will appreciate the way the race will be run and the 19.018/1 about them both should give us a strong position.
I will be looking to take on the Irish runners as they haven't entirely proved themselves in decent fields and it seems the majority of them have a strong liking for softer ground than should be likely at the Festival.
Back Rolling Star @ 6.86/1
Back Kashmir Peak @ 19.018/1