Horse Racing Weekend Preview: Keep An Eye On 14/1 Triumph Hurdle Hopeful

Racing Post expert Keith Melrose previews this weekend’s action in horse racing including Kempton’s Coral Trophy Day.

We have reached the point in the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival where weekend clues are as likely to be for Aintree’s Grand National meeting as they are for Cheltenham.

That is no bad thing, and the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in particular is required viewing if you are taking an interest in the Grand National. All four runners there have National entries, including Vanillier who emerged as a clear favourite for the race after Tuesday’s weights announcement.

When it comes to Cheltenham, here are the likely talking points this weekend.

Late tickets to the juvenile prizes

The Adonis Juvenile Hurdle (1.50) at Kempton has occasionally been used by big stables as a last-minute option to squeeze their most recent recruits from France into the Triumph Hurdle picture.

This year it is Paul Nicholls’ turn, having trod a similar path with Solo in 2020. His Kalif Du Berlais made a winning British debut at this track six weeks ago and could book his place in the Triumph Hurdle, for which he is currently 14-1 with Boylesports, should he win convincingly. Note that Nusret, in winning this race as 7-2 second favourite last year, snapped a five-year winning streak for favourites in the race.

There is also graded juvenile action in Ireland on Sunday, in the Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle (1.20). A number of the entries have Cheltenham entries, although those in the Triumph are generally big outsiders and many of those in the Boodles will need to bump up their handicap marks to get a run.

A Champion Chase dark horse

It is 791 days since Ferny Hollow last saw the track. Then he was riding high in the Arkle market after winning a Grade 1 novice chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. Even then, he had a recent absence on his record, having missed the 2021 Cheltenham Festival after winning the Champion Bumper the season before and beating Bob Olinger on his hurdling debut.

Another long absence means we do not know what to expect in Sunday’s Newlands Chase at Naas (2.50). But the Champion Chase, his sole Cheltenham Festival entry, is crying out for some depth so many neutrals will be hoping that we see some of Ferny Hollow’s old sparkle.

Handicaps to the fore

Handicap entries for the Cheltenham Festival were revealed on Tuesday. On Tuesday next week, we will find out the handicap weights of all runners. Expect some jostling for position, as some try to win and force their way into their Cheltenham targets, while others look to put the finishing touches to their preparations.

Many of the most interesting will run at Kempton, in the handicaps but also the Pendil Novices’ Chase (2.27).

Personally, I will be keeping a keen eye on Bowtogreatness in the feature Coral Trophy on the card (3.37). He has been on my mind for a Cheltenham handicap ever since he showed so much promise at a big price on Festival Trials Day.

His trainer Ben Pauling used this very race to prepare Kildisart for the Ultima in 2020, only for that horse to go down by a neck. Bowtogreatness is likely being campaigned to right that wrong, and a promising run is hoped for on Saturday.

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