The Triumph Hurdle, the Championship for juvenile hurdlers, opens Gold Cup day, and is usually a fascinating betting heat- we tend to know less about the field here than we do in any other Festival race. Could we have seen a potential superstar lurking in this division already, or is there a monster yet to be unleashed?
It’s worth noting that only two of the last five Triumph Hurdle winners were seen prior to Christmas Day- last season’s winner Pentland Hills only had his first start over obstacles eighteen days before his Festival victory, whilst 2018 champion Farclas will still a hurdles maiden heading to Cheltenham, which highlights that it can be it can be a market to treat with caution at this stage of the season, given that we’ve not yet seen the full extent of this division’s talent- and that the young horses we have seen have a large scope for improvement between now and March.
That being said, there’s already been a number of impressive performances in the juvenile division so far this season and several are already worth their place in the Triumph hurdle picture.
I was taken with Allmankind’s debut hurdling victory at Warwick back in October, where he displayed all the traits that have since seen him win in Graded level at both Cheltenham and Chepstow.
He’s a free going, bold jumping front runner with an awkward head carriage, described as a “fruitloop” by trainer Dan Skelton, but I don’t think his unorthodox style is a sign of ungenuiness, though, as he has knuckled down to task when asked to graft in his races.
He’s clearly already above average in terms of natural ability- he was good enough to run in the Dee Stakes on the flat- and I think his hurdling form looks strong as well.
If Allmankind’s headstrong nature can continue to harnessed in a positive way, it’s hard to rule him out of the Triumph picture at this stage, though there has to be a slight doubt as to whether his keenness could see him doing too much, too soon against stronger opposition.
I wouldn’t rule out either Allmankind’s vanquished foes Botox Has, himself a winner since at Cheltenham, or Cerberus, from reaching the frame at the Festival, either.
The former looks like a typically forward and robust French bred, and though perhaps not possessing as much scope for improvement as some others, he’s a horse I’m a fan of and can see his future lying over further in time, whilst Cerberus, though already fairly exposed, put distance between himself and the rest of the field at Chepstow, though could be vulnerable to others with a higher ceiling of ability going forward.
Another taking front running performance over the Festive period came from Aspire Tower, who let his rivals get to within a length of him at the end of the back straight, but put the race to bed in a couple of strides turning for home and powered away to record an 18 length victory.
It’s easy to see why he was promoted to favouritism with most bookmakers after that Leopardstown demolition job.
Like Allmankind, he was a useful flat performer, but has already shown clear improvement for the transition to this discipline and, on collateral form lines through Cerberus and A Wave Of The Sea, a case can be made for Aspire Tower having several lengths in hand on his main market rival.
Goshen didn’t quite match the level of form of Allmankind or Aspire Tower on the flat, but proved he was on a rapid upward curve in winning all three flat starts for Gary Moore before adding two more victories when switched to hurdles.
He entered the Triumph conversion when bolting up by 34 lengths at Sandown’s Tingle Creek meeting, and whilst that race didn’t contain as much depth of opposition as the ones contested by those mentioned prior, Goshen has been so imperious that both of his hurdling starts could almost be considered public schooling sessions.
His jumping hasn’t quite looked the finished article yet- he was consistently out to his right at Fontwell and got in a bit tight to the last at Sandown, but obvious excuses can be made for a minor lack of concentration given that he’s not come up against anything of his own calibre and has been left isolated on the front end of his races.
Exactly how good this lad is hard to quantify- but he’s clearly already well above average and I’d argue ranks somewhat as the joker in this division’s pack.
Trueshan is as short as 14-1, but is reportedly not going hurdling until next season according to Alan King, though we could see another talented flat performer in Willie Mullins’ Micro Manage over obstacles this campaign.
He’s yet to make his hurdles debut having apparently picked up a minor injury, but beat Royal Ascot winner South Pacific in a Tipperary maiden as a two-year-old and his only start on the flat last season saw him bolt up by 14 lengths from a mark of 91.
That was the performance of a Group class flat horse, and if equally adept when tackling hurdles, which isn’t hard to envisage, given that in he’s in the care of the master of Closutton, Micro Manage should take high rank amongst Ireland’s juveniles.
Jessica Harrington’s filly Gin On Lime is another horse we’ve yet to see jump a hurdle for her yard, but created a striking impression when not having to come off the bridle on her debut victory at Clairefontaine- the switch to Harrington can only be considered a positive and it wouldn’t surprise me if she ended up prominent in the conversation for this come March.
Other juveniles worth mentioning at this stage include Doncaster Grade 2 winner Navajo Pass and Nicky Henderson’s easy Newbury scorer Fraser Island, though given the fluid nature of the juvenile nature at this stage of the season, who’s to say we’ve even seen the Triumph winner yet?