AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle 2014 – Preview
Between them, Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins have accounted for half of the winners of this prestigious Grade 1 Four Year Old Hurdle over 2m (4.20) since 2006…
…and both trainers look well represented on Saturday.
Henderson sends over Kentucky Hyden and Royal Irish Hussar, where the former will look to reverse form with Gordon Elliott’s Tiger Roll, who was over 3l in front when landing the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March (2m1f, good).
There will be plenty of punters siding with Tiger Roll once more, as he was a comfortable winner at Cheltenham, drawing further away towards the finish. He’ll need to be good if recording the double, however, as the last hurdler to achieve the Cheltenham/Punchestown 4yo double was Katarino in 1999.
In fact, runners that were actually beaten in the Triumph did better in this race, with four of the last six winners all gaining compensation here after losing in the Triumph. Such a record could see support for Kentucky Hyden gaining revenge on Tiger Roll, while others who were beaten in the Triumph include Guitar Pete (third), Royal Irish Hussar (sixth), Pearl Castle (seventh), Lindenhurst (ninth), Plinth (twelfth), Adriana Des Mottes (brought down) and Abbyssial (fell).
As can be seen from the Triumph Hurdle candidates, there are plenty amongst the pack who could come out and turn the form around, including Dessie Hughes’ third, Guitar Pete, who has since won the Grade 1 4-Y-O event at Aintree a month ago (2m1f, good). Guitar Pete also beat Tiger Roll over 2l at Leopardstown (2m, soft) when they first clashed in February, and while that rival has clearly improved since, Guitar Pete could take advantage should Tiger Roll slip-up.
Then there is Henderson’s other runner, Royal Irish Hussar, who was sixth at Cheltenham, but seems to have gone backwards since winning a Grade 2 back in November, unlike Edward O’Grady’s Kitten Rock, who was touched off just a head by Willie Mullins’ Ivan Grozny, in a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse a few weeks back. Ivan Grozny improved for the fitting of a hood on that occasion, although it’s debatable as to whether that level of form will be good enough on Saturday.
Willie Mullins also has Gitane Du Berlais entered, a winner of his last two, including when last seen winning a Grade 3 in January, while Abbyssial was fancied for the Triumph before falling at the second, so it will be interesting to see who Mullins decides to run.
There should be clues in the market ahead of off-time, as 15 of the last 17 winners of this race returned 7/1 or shorter, and one who should fit into that bracket is Kentucky Hyden, who may have got closer to Tiger Roll at Cheltenham but for wandering. He could become the fifth horse in seven years to be beaten in the Triumph and come and win here.
Here are the full trends going back to 1997…
All 17 winners raced during the last three months – several had a decent break beforehand of around seven to 12 weeks – while 10 featured in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.
16 were ridden prominently or held up.
16 ran over 2m-2m1f last time.
15 returned 7/1 or shorter.
14 had 2-6 hurdle outings. Those that raced four times or more experienced Graded company where seven scored, while those with two to three outings tended to win minor races last time.
Nicky Henderson trained three winners, while Jonjo O’Neill and Willie Mullins had two each.